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AFT Chief: Teachers, Public Education Under Attack

DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - The president of the American Federation of Teachers says anti-labor campaigns around the country threaten teachers' well-being and the group's "very existence as a union."

Randi Weingarten said in remarks prepared for delivery Friday morning at the AFT's national convention in Detroit that "a wave of anti-union, anti-public education initiatives" has surfaced as the U.S. struggles to overcome the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

She says that's forced teachers unions "to go on the defensive over and over again."

Weingarten says she's meeting Friday with Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts to challenge the mass layoff of teachers and the imposition of pay and benefit cuts.

In a letter obtained by WWJ Newsradio 950, Roberts said accusations that he's imposed unfair contracts without bargaining in good faith are untrue. He said, in fact, on two occasions he's offered local teachers unions a financial incentive proposal similar to one in the past in which "the teachers received the highest raise ever in the history."

Under the plan, a portion of any operating surplus, one percent for each $5 million, would be set aside to provide to district employees. Under the projected operating surplus, DPS employees would be expected to receive two percent of their wages back, in December of this year.

Roberts said his offer was turned down twice.

Read the full letter (.pdf format)

Hundreds of teachers are expected to rally outside of the Fisher Building Friday afternoon to "send a message to Roberts to join them at the bargaining table."

The AFT represents 1.5 million teachers. It's the nation's second-largest teachers union behind the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.

TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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