The second annual Education and Labor Collaborative conference was held at Antioch University/Los Angeles for a labor film fest on the Friday evening of April 24, and at United Teachers Los Angeles headquarters all day Saturday. About 50 people attended the film show, and 75 attended the conference, about 25 of whom were UTLA members who received salary point credit for attending. Last year’s conference was held at United Federation of Teachers in New York.
While this may seem like a modest attendance given UTLA’s size, the conference occurred within the context of five thousand March 15 layoff notices hanging over the heads of especially the younger teachers in the district, many of whom were actually at a meeting on the RIFs all day Saturday.
Local members of the CFT Labor in the School Committee active in organizing the conference included Linda Tubach, Kenadi Le, and John Delloro. We were also well represented among presenters. The conference sought to integrate teaching about labor into teaching the New Deal. With that in mind we had plenary presentations on the New Deal by scholars Gray Brechin and Frank Stricker. But the innovative thing was incorporating a number of other professors specializing in labor and the New Deal as commentators in workshops on contemporary themes such as community organizing, immigration issues in the classroom, and teaching working class students. In these the scholars, after others talked about the present, presented how such issues were dealt with in the 30s.
UTLA members were very enthusiastic about the conference. The workshops that directly focused on teaching about labor were well attended. Most of the teachers had had little formal education about unions, the Depression and the New Deal, and said that the conference had helped them understand why everyone was comparing today’s situation with then, and what it meant to think about Obama as a potential FDR, and what a new “New Deal” might look like. Another common remark was how they wished they had been made to go workshops such as these when they began teaching, both so that they would have better understood what unions were about, and so that they would have gotten ideas about how to teach social studies differently.