CHRISTIANSTED — The American Federation of Teachers wildcat strike that began on St. Thomas Tuesday spilled over to St. Croix today.
Teachers say they are outraged that the Virgin islands government is demanding that they give up claims to retroactive pay owed to them in return for promised raises.
Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum took to the radio this morning to reassure parents that the schools remain open as scheduled today.
But at Central High School on St. Croix the majority of teachers did show up to work today, but some stayed home in a “sickout” solidarity with their striking St. Thomas counterparts.
At least 300 teachers on St. Thomas blocked traffic on Veteran’s Drive, held up placards and shouted slogans at the Legislature.
Sens. Janette Millin Young and Marvin Blyden stopped to speak to striking teachers on Tuesday.
Blyden said teachers were tired of poor working conditions, having to spend their own money to buy school supplies for the classroom and the fact that the government wants them to give up retroactive money owed to them in return for pay raises.
“I totally feel the position of the teachers that stood in front of the Legislature, and I respect the fact that they took a stance so that their voices could be heard,” Blyden said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kenneth Mapp seemed to be the most nonplussed by striking teachers on St. Thomas and St. Croix, saying that the AFT went seven years without a pay raise during the DeJongh Administration.
“On what basis or reason is the AFT disrupting the school instruction process by abandoning their students and demonstrating on the public streets?” Mapp asked. “While I want to understand the protest of the teachers, I am at a loss as I publicly announced months ago that I will increase teachers’ salaries.”
Sen. Janette Millin Young listens to striking teachers at the Legislature on St. Thomas on Tuesday.