In an overwhelming show of strength and solidarity, 98% of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) members voted to authorize a strike, should that action become necessary for teachers to get a fair deal from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The union had a historic turnout for the vote, with more than 82% of the membership casting ballots.
What’s the issue: In short, LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner and his austerity agenda harms educators, students and our public schools. Beutner’s agenda is to ultimately cut pay, health care, pensions, staffing, and student services, sharply reducing the much-needed resources LA schools depend upon to provide a quality education to students. Make no mistake, this agenda is harmful to students and families in LAUSD. UTLA is standing up to Beutner to protect students and schools from facing disastrous cuts that would lead to a decline in student outcomes. LAUSD is not without the means to provide critical support to educators and students. In fact, the district is hoarding $1.7 billion in reserves.
Educators have been working without a contract for more than a year. LAUSD is trying to narrow contract talks to pay and a few other issues. But that’s woefully inadequate. Educators are fighting for a range of issues that help LAUSD students and families including lower class sizes, fair pay, less testing and more teaching, accountability for charter operators, respect for early and adult educators, and more nurses, counselors, and librarians to support students.
What they’re saying: “Our members have spoken, with one big, united voice,” said Arlene Inoyue, chair of the UTLA Bargaining Team. “After 17 months of bargaining with LAUSD, educators are frustrated and angry. We want a district that partners with us — not fights us — on critical issues like lower class sizes, fair pay, and bringing more staff to work with our students.”
Why this matters to all unions: In the wake of historic teacher strikes around the country, UTLA’s strong pushback against LAUSD’s anti-worker, anti-student agenda is central to the national fight for workers’ rights and public education. With the Trump Administration, GOP Congress and the Supreme Court aligned against working people, solidarity is more important than ever. UTLA educators are making a stand against policies that hurt all workers.
What’s next? The strike authorization doesn’t mean educators will go on strike immediately. But it does authorize the UTLA Board of Directors to call for a strike if LAUSD continues negotiating in bad faith and ignoring educators’ demands for a school environment that supports educators and students in achieving the success they deserve.
With the rash of attacks on public sector unions and education, it’s more important than ever that we all stand in solidarity with our brave sisters and brothers at UTLA. Their fight is our fight. Follow UTLA on Facebook and Twitter for important updates as this situation develops.