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Education Aides Want Pay Hike

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
       Albuquerque's education assistants say they want a minimum wage that's livable and are petitioning the Legislature to make it happen.
    It's not the first time the education assistants have asked for an increase from the $10.12 per hour minimum, or what amounts to a $12,000 annual paycheck, said Kathy Chavez, president of the Albuquerque Educational Assistants, but this time the union is asking for a promise from lawmakers two weeks from the general election.
    Chavez said the assistants should be making a three-tier salary schedule based on experience and qualifications, with $15,000, $20,000 and $25,000 minimums that are half the minimums now established for teachers.
    State Rep. Rick Miera, D-Albuquerque, said he will carry the bill again, which has historically been passed in the House but not in the Senate.
    "It's not that significant an amount of money," Miera said. "Two years ago, we forced EAs to do something (obtain licensure), and we did not respond in kind. We've given them nothing."
    The Albuquerque union is expected to finish voting today on a proposed 40-cent hourly wage increase Albuquerque Public Schools has offered its 1,900 education assistants.
    Union officials, who are pushing for a $1-an-hour wage hike, had recommended the assistants vote against the proposal and expect the contract to be rejected.
    APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta said the district would not comment on the pending vote.
    Chavez said the weakened economy has forced many assistants to take second jobs or look elsewhere, as spouses are laid off work and living expenses have increased.
    "It's bad out there," Chavez said. "There was a lady who wanted to cut her finger and put blood on the ballot to show how serious she was."