UTLA’s fight to save public education resonated far and wide. Messages of solidarity and selfies of fist-pumping teachers poured in from Kentucky to Canada. Union locals across Los Angeles set up support networks for more than 200 LAUSD schools. For Writers Guild members, joining teachers on picket lines was an opportunity to pay back their mentors.
United Teachers Los Angeles has fought for nearly 50 years to give parents a greater voice in how their children’s schools are run. In recent years, UTLA stepped up its outreach by hiring community organizers, building coalitions, and working with supporters in changing neighborhoods.
Those efforts bore fruit in January, when thousands of parents joined teachers on picket lines across the 700-square-mile school district to fight for “the schools our students deserve.”
Manual Arts High School has a proud 109-year history. Alumni include painter Jackson Pollock, actor Paul Winfield, and tennis champion Richard “Pancho” Gonzalez. Former teacher Josh Pechthalt was shaped by – and has helped to reshape – the South L.A. fixture.
CFT President Josh Pechthalt was a student at Fairfax High in 1970, when United Teachers Los Angeles struck for nearly a month. He later taught social studies at Manual Arts High School for more than 20 years, and was on the front lines in 1989, when UTLA struck a second time.
During the strike, hundreds of retired L.A. teachers returned to their former schools to continue the fight for public education. One veteran of the two previous strikes said back then UTLA was up against an intransigent district, but didn’t have to face billionaires and unrestrained charter school growth.
UTLA-Retired is now mobilizing all its 4,300 members for the special election in March to fill a key seat on the LAUSD school board and tilt the balance away from a pro-charter majority.
Eight days after the six-day strike had ramped up public pressure, the Los Angeles Unified school board passed a groundbreaking resolution calling for a moratorium on new charters in the district until Sacramento completes a study of how their unchecked expansion has affected traditional schools. The district also made a significant investment in local community schools.
On day two of the UTLA strike, members teaching at a South L.A. charter also walked out, and stayed out until victory two weeks later.
With a massive outpouring of community support, a new generation of teachers shut down the country’s second-largest school district in a fight for the future of public education. UTLA members launched their first strike in 30 years to deliver “the schools our kids deserve.”
“Right now our college doesn’t provide any sort of health benefit to part-timers,” explained local President Stephanie Rosenblatt. “Most of the districts around us provide at least some sort of reimbursement scheme, in which part-time faculty are reimbursed at even a minimal level for their healthcare premiums.”
THE ANTELOPE VALLEY Federation awarded six scholarships at a May 18 event sponsored by the college foundation.
High school seniors Star Collins and Amanda Martinez each received $500 from the Karen Curtis Scholarship, which the AFT Local 4683 created to honor one of the union’s driving forces, CFT Field Representative Karen Curtis.
There are adjunct survival guides out there which give basic union info, and perhaps maybe where the copy machines are located on campus, then there’s The Part-Timer’s Almanac, which is perhaps the most comprehensive, adjunct-oriented union publication put out by a local union ever.
#ScienceMarch Numerous local unions took a stand for reason, facts and scientific analysis in the Science March and Climate March held during the month of May, including groups from the Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2030, and UC-AFT San Diego, AFT Local 2226.
#DumpDeVos: Demonstrators at a boisterous event in Oakland — organized on social media in just a few days — denounced the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education. Hundreds of parents, educators, and students gathered at a noon rally on January 31.
#NoDAPL: University members have been steadfast in support of the Standing Rock Sioux resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens tribal water sources. On November 10, UC-AFT Berkeley members rallied in front of Wells Fargo Bank in Oakland, urging it to stop financing the pipeline.
Contagious…This spring Ann Marie Wasserbauer, president of the Association of College Educators, delivered 513 petitions from faculty and students to the West Valley-Mission Community College Board of Trustees with the message: “Come back to the bargaining table!”
Reclaiming schools…. On May 4, teachers, support staff, parents, students, elected officials and others participated in a series of walk-ins and other events in support of public education. Spurred on by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which held walk-ins across the country, CFT members in schools from districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Daly City and Morgan Hill, as well as Cerritos College, turned out to show support for the high-quality public schools that all our students deserve.
LOCALS 1481, 1493, 3267 Schools our students deserve… More than 250 parents, teachers, school staff, students, and community members attended the “Schools Our Children Deserve” conference at Skyline College on March 19 to hold a four-hour conversation about what should be happening in North San Mateo County public schools.
Funding in limbo… The last few years have been a terrible time in the adult education world, according to Jack Carroll, the executive director at the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers. Carroll, who teaches office skills to adults, hopes AB86 will alleviate that by providing $25 million for adult education.
LA turns out for education.… Thousands of people jammed Grand Park on February 26 in a rally for “Schools LA Students Deserve.” They wore red to send the message to Los Angeles Unified: Teachers will not stop fighting for high-quality education including culturally relevant classes; smaller class sizes in fully-staffed clean and safe schools with social and emotional support for students; and fair compensation for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. Students, parents, and community groups joined United Teachers Los Angeles at the rally.
Protecting the rehire pool…When administrators at Oakland’s Laney College chose not to rehire part-time sociology professor and Peralta Federation of Teachers Part-time Faculty Representative Cynthia Mahabir, and two other members of the Part-time Faculty Rehire Preference Pool, the faculty rallied quickly.
Raise the wage…Educators are joining the fight to raise poverty-level wages. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is a leading participant in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley and securing a better economic future for the city’s families.
North County comes of age…The Palomar Faculty Federation wants to change politics in northern San Diego County and it isn’t waiting around for someone else to do it.
“Public education is under attack and teachers and unions are fighting for survival,” said Co-President Shannon Lienhart. “Our best path forward is to find common ground, form coalitions, and work together.”