Kansas unions, community stand up and fight back

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Nurses, teachers, clergy, elected leaders and others from across the state rallied at the Kansas Capitol Feb. 23 to push back against an increasingly extreme legislative agenda. "The governor and legislative leaders need to know that what they're doing will not happen in some backroom where nobody notices," explained AFT Kansas president Lisa Ochs. Divisive, extremist bills being threatened by some Kansas legislators are known as "model legislation" from the corporate lobby ALEC—essentially a one-size-fits-all legislative template the group has introduced in a number of states, Ochs said.

Kansas City rally

"They're threatening Kansas with bills that have nothing to do with our state. They're the same ones, written by the same corporate lobbyists, we've seen submitted in one state after another across the nation."

Several rally speakers blasted Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for proposing to cut state services to pay for tax cuts—and for putting the interests of his corporate friends over those of the people of Kansas. Brownback "wants to keep bailing out his corporate friends, and emptying our state treasury into their bottom lines, and then points the finger of blame at you and me," United Teachers of Wichita president Randy Mousley noted.

"We need more cuts, they say. We need austerity and to slash education, we're told," he said. "Because when corporate interests abscond with billions, God forbid a schoolteacher in Wichita makes enough to feed her kid and put gas in the car."

Brownback cannot claim to care about our state's future while dismantling it, added Mousley. "As a science teacher, I can tell you that slashing education and then expecting our kids to compete in a global, knowledge-based economy is shortsighted and self-defeating in the extreme."

Resa Boydston, a mental health tech at the Kansas Neurological Institute and a state employee for 32 years, said she's concerned that Brownback's policies will only exacerbate the high turnover rate where she works—and the loss of skilled, experienced employees.

Ensuring that Kansas educators, state employees and other working people have a decent income is in the best interest of the state's economy, Ochs pointed out. "When working families, when the teachers and nurses and firefighters of our community have a little money to spend, it not only benefits those families but also the businesses that depend on them as their customer base.

The governor's economics "are not just callous, they're fiscally shortsighted. They're bad economic policy," she added. [Roger Glass, AFT Kansas/AFT Kansas photo]

February 25, 2013