LOS ANGELES — Daily preparations for a Jan. 14 strike by 34,000 teachers here have intensified as the United Teachers Los Angeles union reaches out for support from parents, students and fellow union members. Negotiations with the school board continue.
Joanna Belson plans to be on the picket line with her children. “If they can’t be taught by schoolteachers that day,” Belson said, “they’re going to have a real-life lesson on the picket lines and they’re going to see how the real world works.”
“We know there are tough decisions ahead for the more than 600,000 students and their families impacted by a strike,” a front-page wraparound ad by the union in the Jan. 8 Los Angeles Times with an accompanying poster states. “Having many parents and allies on the picket lines will be powerful and transformative.”
The union has called for workers, students and parents to join teachers in a 10 a.m. rally in front of City Hall on the first day of the strike.
The board has countered the union’s strike preparations with attempts at last-ditch court orders to thwart a strike. The original strike date of Jan. 10 was postponed by the union to Jan. 14 because the school board claimed in court they weren’t given the required 10-day strike notice. The union said Jan. 9 they’d win the case, but didn’t want to allow the board to spread confusion.
The board has hired 400 scab teachers and are urging parents to cross picket lines to monitor students along with the 2,000 administrators that will attempt to keep the schools open. The old union contract expired in June 2017.
The board has also approved new policies to relax vetting requirements to allow volunteers to cross teacher picket lines and come into the schools.
The school board — which is headed by a millionaire former investment banker — claims it will go insolvent trying to meet the teachers’ demands, regardless of how “worthy” they are.
The union answers by showing the board is sitting on a $1.86 billion reserve.
Teachers get labor support
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is urging every member to adopt a school, “working with the picket captains on the strike lines to provide water, food, bodies to walk the picket line, shuttling folks, etc.,” wrote Cathy Familathe, president of the ILWU Southern California District Council. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has issued similar appeals.
Over a thousand union school representatives converged on the union headquarters Jan. 5 to get strike material and instructions for organizing picketing. Signs distributed by the union saying, “We Stand with LA Teachers,” are springing up in houses around the area.
The union is pressing for a 6.5 percent pay increase. They are demanding hiring of more school nurses, counselors and librarians. Many schools only hire a nurse for one day a week, and there is one counselor for every 945 students.
Smaller class sizes are a key concern of teachers. “Right now I have classes with 40-41 students in them and I have a total of 233 students that I work with,” Erica Huerta, a social studies teacher at Garfield High School, said.
“That’s a lot of students to think about at one time. It’s another one of the signs of disrespect from our district,” said Huerta. “They’re expecting us to do magic without giving us the resources that we need and one of the resources is just time and energy with students.”
Teachers say they draw inspiration from the round of teacher protests and strikes across the country last year, from West Virginia to Colorado, Arizona to North Carolina.
To find out how you can aid the teachers and their fight for more resources for schools, visit www.WeArePublicSchools.org.