United Teachers Los Angeles
United Teachers Los Angeles
|Headquarters||3303 Wilshire Blvd., 10th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90010 Coordinates:|
|Affiliations||California Federation of Teachers (AFT), (CTA), (NEA)|
United Teachers Los Angeles is the main representative of certified, non-administrative staff in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Prior to 1970, primary and secondary school teachers in Los Angeles were chiefly represented by a local of the American Federation of Teachers (called the Los Angeles Teachers Alliance, LATA) and the Associated Classroom Teachers of Los Angeles (ACT-LA) which was affiliated to the National Education Association. There were other smaller teachers unions active before 1970 that also merged into UTLA. Over a dozen different organizations merged to form UTLA.
The first broad federation of Los Angeles School District teachers was the Affiliated Teacher Organizations of Los Angeles, formed between 1930 and 1932.
UTLA is very active in California's political sphere, especially since Proposition 13, which severely limited the amount that public schools can receive from property taxes. This shifted the burden to the state and increased the competition between state funded groups. The union has also advocated strongly against school voucher programs and attempts to break up the school district.
On May 30, 1989, approximately 20,000 UTLA members went out on strike for higher pay and more administrative control.   The strike lasted nine days starting on May 30, 1989. The months preceding the strike were highly contentious. Numerous negotiation tactics were deployed by both sides including teacher demonstrations, threats to withhold grades, threats to dock teacher pay and many hard fought court battles. Union demands included pay increases and better school conditions. Thousands of substitute teachers were mobilized in preparation for the strike, and teachers prepared by saving money to endure a long walk-out. Many of the city's 600 schools reportedly remained open but with lower attendance. The district reported that 8,642 teachers crossed picket lines, and public rhetoric by both sides was critical and intense. After negotiations, a settlement was reached and a three-year contract produced. Both sides claimed victory. Despite successful teacher pay raises obtained in the settlement, a massive economic recession in 1990 caused negotiations in 1991 to focus on preventing massive layoffs due to hundreds of millions in budget deficits. Salaries were cut to avoid layoffs, ameliorating the positive results of the 1989 strike.
In August 2018, under the leadership of progressive UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, 98% of UTLA members authorized a strike  over numerous disputes and a failure of months of contract negotiations. These included familiar issues such as salary increases, classroom size reduction and the need for more nurses and librarians. However, a new issue also predominated the discussions—i.e., authority and control over the proliferation of charter schools.
At the time of the strike, one in five LAUSD students attended a charter school, siphoning an estimated $600 million dollars a year from the financially strapped school system, according to UTLA  which called for a moratorium on charter school authorizations, an end to school privatization and robust funding for public education. Los Angeles had more charter school students than any other school district, in part because anti-union interests and billionaires, such as the Walton heirs to the Walmart fortune and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect a pro-charter majority on the seven-member school board.
Fact-finding and mediation continued for several months, while teachers, counselors, parents and other community members rallied in downtown Los Angeles, marching through an echoing 3rd Street tunnel, right up to the entrance of the Broad Museum, built by real estate magnate Eli Broad, who a few years earlier had conceived a plan to turn half of LAUSD into charter schools.
The fact-finding report failed to resolve matters and UTLA stated that a strike would proceed on January 10, 2019.
On January 14, 2019, despite torrential rain and an attempt by the district to enjoin the strike, 30,000 teachers walked out of class and onto the picket line in what was the first teacher's strike to rock Los Angeles in 30 years, not since 1989.
The strike lasted six days. Schools remained open, with replacement teachers and administrative staff showing movies, filling in for the striking teachers, but school attendance was estimated to have dropped to less than half during the strike.
Students at Venice High School created a buzz on Twitter when they danced in support of their striking teachers, issuing a Public Ed Dance Challenge to other students to learn their dance steps and join them on the picket line.
Meanwhile, thousands of teachers clad in red union t-shirts, waving signs that read, "Save our Schools," continued to attend rallies with community supporters around the city, including at City Hall and LAUSD headquarters. UTLA and the school district reached a deal on a new contract January 22, 2019, after an all-night negotiating session on the sixth day. The 2019-2022 UTLA contract includes a 6 percent teacher pay raise untethered to cuts in health benefits for new teachers; a reduction in class size by 4 students per class for grades four through 12 over the course of three years; a full-time librarian in each middle and high school; additional secondary school counselors to allow for more individual student counseling; plans to cut standardized testing by 50%; removal of a provision that had previously allowed the District to increase class sizes during times of economic hardship; teacher representation on charter co-location committees; and a "commitment to provide a full-time nurse in every school". The deal also includes the establishment of 30 community schools around the district, modeled after similar programs in Cincinnati and Austin that seek to provide students with social services and learning experiences in the arts. The deal does not contain any binding agreements on charter schools, but it does include a non-binding resolution that calls on the state to establish a cap on charter schools.
Post-Strike Successes: Legislative and Electoral
Following the strike, UTLA, together with the California Teachers Association, successfully lobbied California Governor Gavin Newsom to sign two bills into law to hold charter schools more accountable and to give school districts the power to deny charter authorizations. Senate bill 126, previously vetoed by former Governor Jerry Brown, requires charter schools to conduct open meetings, produce requested records under the California Public Records Act and avoid conflicts of interest in contracts. Assembly bill 1505 empowers school districts to deny charter authorizations that might negatively impact the fiscal health of the district and to close charter schools that fail to adequately serve special education students. On the electoral front, in May, 2019, a few months after the strike, UTLA celebrated the overwhelming election of the union endorsed candidate, Jackie Goldberg, former LAUSD school board member and former assemblywoman, to represent District Five on the LAUSD school board, shifting the balance of power to support existing neighborhood schools.
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