Dear Commons Community,
An estimated 15,000 teachers and their supporters rallied in downtown Los Angeles last Thursday, threatening to strike should union and school district representatives fail to reach an agreement to reduce class sizes, raise teacher pay, increase support staff, and eliminate the existing system for evaluating educators. According to the Associated Press:
“Dressed in red and raising signs into the air, thousands of teachers filled a downtown Los Angeles park on Thursday in demand of higher wages and smaller class sizes amid stalled contract negotiations.
“Everybody in this country is watching this struggle,” said Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers. “It’s a fight about the nature of public education. What is public education going to look like?”
The rally was the largest action yet amid an escalating standoff between union and Los Angeles Unified district leaders: United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is demanding an 8.5 percent salary increase, a demand interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines contends the district cannot meet without significant layoffs.
The union declared an impasse in February and is set to meet with the district and mediators in March. If a resolution is still not reached, a fact finding panel will convene.
Though still several steps away, union officials say they are prepared to strike if needed.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and other union leaders have visited hundreds of schools in recent months, talking to teachers and handing out commitment cards. The cards ask teachers to pledge support for a variety of actions, from leafleting to a strike. About half have been returned so far.
“The vast majority of our members have checked off, ‘Are you willing to strike?’ with a, ‘Yes I am willing to strike,'” Caputo-Pearl said to applause and cheers at the rally.
The last major urban district to strike was Chicago Public Schools in 2012. That contract dispute centered largely on the role of student test scores in teacher evaluations.
In contrast, the Los Angeles contract standoff has focused mostly on teacher salaries, class sizes and increasing the number of support staff members like nurses and counselors. The union notes that teachers have gone eight years without a salary increase or cost of living adjustment.”
Good luck to the UTLA!
Couldn’t agree more Tony! Good luck to the UTLA as well!