The Denver Classroom Teachers Association voted to go on strike on Tuesday evening after 14 months of failed contract negotiations between the union and Denver Public Schools. In the face of the strike vote, school district officials have done everything from decry the teacher’s demands to call for furloughed federal workers to come work as scabs. But a letter published Thursday night from DPS somehow topped that, showing just how desperate the district is to put an end to the walkout before it begins.
The letter was sent to one of the district’s schools by a district human resources employee and informed them that striking teachers on H or J visas would be reported to immigration officials and the U.S. Department of State, the Denver Post reported.
“If they have a pending case and choose to strike, this could impact the decision on the case,” the letter said. A teacher speaking with the Post called the letter a “scare tactic,” saying that two employees at her school, one seeking asylum and one in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen, read it as soon as it arrived.
An organizer with the Colorado’s People Alliance, which posted the letter, told the paper their immigration attorneys said neither the school nor the district are required to report any teachers to immigration in the event of a strike. In fact, the only federal authorities DPS is required to contact is the U.S. Department of Labor, and even then, they only have to tell Labor that a strike is happening, not who is participating.
The swift backlash prompted a statement from district spokesman Will Jones, who told the Post the letter, “was the result of a misinterpretation of the information that we received from our immigration firm, and the communication was in no way intended to cause fear for our educators on visas. Our deepest apologies for any anxiety that was caused by this error.”
Hours before the letter’s release Thursday night, DPS officials officially requested intervention from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, with their 19-page letter to the state claiming that such a disruption would go against the public’s interests. The union now has 10 days to file a response, which will be reviewed by the Department of Labor before it determines whether it wants to step in. The ramifications of the district’s request means that teachers will not legally be allowed to begin their strike on Monday as planned; depending on the state’s response time, the strike could be put off for up to 180 days.
In the meantime, the district will surely do its best to avoid any more not-so-veiled threats and will conduct itself as a fair and amenable negotiating party. That, or it’ll keep going after marginalized teachers that need the job to remain in the country and despicably attempt to bust the union’s strike before it even begins. One of the two.