Professional Educators of Nogales took powerful action this week, reminding us what it means to show unbreakable solidarity with one another.
Jose Valenzuela (also known by his nickname of Pepe Chuy) is a special education para in Nogales who has worked for the school district for 22 years. After more than two decades of service, he takes home just $680 every two weeks.
Last week, he stayed after a meeting to talk with the school's district human resources director, Mayra Zuniga, and the business manager, Clementina Carlyle. Valenzuela shared with them how low wages impact his life. Every penny he makes goes to rent, car payments, groceries and other bills. The rest of his expenses have to go on credit cards. Valenzuela shared that he’d love to be able to just take his wife out to dinner every once in a while, but it’s simply not possible on such a low wage.
In response, they laughed in his face. Then they suggested that he sing his wife a song instead – specifically “No Tengo Dinero” by Juan Gabriel.
When Valenzuela’s union siblings in Professional Educators of Nogales heard what had happened, they sprang into action. More than twenty educators showed up with him to the school board meeting on Monday night. They sat in silent protest to demand that Zuniga and Carlyle be held accountable for their unprofessional conduct.
Together, the members of PEN made it clear that they will not tolerate disrespect. By standing together, they sent a powerful message to Superintendent Canto and the entire governing board.
It is simply unacceptable for supervisors, administrators or district staff to mock or demean educators. But alone, it can be hard to know how to react or what to do. Coming together in a union with our colleagues is what makes it possible to hold those in power accountable and demand the respect we deserve.
There is strength in numbers – and in our unbreakable solidarity with one another.