Los Angeles unions plotting new betrayals of education workers

More than three months have passed since the expiration of the last contract between United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the nation with nearly 665,000 students. The 2022-2023 school year is more than a month old.

Bus drivers, paraprofessionals and support staff who are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) also negotiate with LAUSD.

Los Angeles teachers’ strike at city hall, January 2019 [Photo: WSWS]

Negotiations between the teachers’ union and the LAUSD began in May, with demands for a 20% salary increase over two years, the hiring of more teachers and investments in public schools in very poor condition.

Details of the negotiations were provided sporadically to the more than 34,000 members, with the district offering a 23% pay increase over the next three years. Although this is less than the current rate of inflation on an annual basis, just under half of the increase in compensation will actually go to one-time bonuses with no impact on salary.

The UTLA, for its part, issued a statement last month calling the district’s latest offer “insulting and negligible.” UTLA Co-Chair and Negotiations Secretary Arlene Inouye said, “No more table scraps and no more short-term fixes; we demand a better future for our students.

Such rhetoric is but a gust of wind intended to confuse and confuse teachers. In 2019, the union bureaucracy met behind closed doors with the District and the Democratic Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, to reach what the UTLA called a “historic agreement”, which in fact included increases in salary still lower than the miserly increases included in the last district. to offer.

More recently, UTLA and the district reached an agreement on what the district calls “optional teaching days.” Intended to address alleged “learning loss” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the four teaching days were to be spread throughout the year and the scheduling of these would have been done without meaningful consultation with UTLA.

In response, the union asked teachers to strike on pedagogical days, a meaningless move since these days are optional. Either way, the “strike” would have been used to advance the union’s “beyond recovery platform,” which it is currently advancing in negotiations with the district.

The Beyond Recovery platform is itself an indictment of the 2019 deal, as all the gains that unions promised teachers would make in the 2019 deal, which they abandoned, are now included in the 2022 platform.

These include smaller class sizes that were promised before the 2019 agreement, which resulted in various committees to “investigate” class sizes rather than hiring initiatives or class caps. According to many teachers, their class sizes have only decreased by one or two students per year. He also claims to be fighting for more nursing and counseling staff, also promised during the 2019 teachers’ strike.

The title of the platform itself is an acknowledgment that union officials believe the pandemic is over. The platform offers no calls for increased distance learning or on-campus COVID-19 mitigation protocols, which UTLA leaders say can now be fully unmasked without any testing in place. , although an autumn outbreak of the virus on school sites is very likely.

Gina Gray, a high school English teacher, recently wrote on a local webpage about 2019 and now “…it’s starting to look like déjà vu.”

“LAUSD listened to educators, parents, students and community members share the proposals we had developed together. But much to our dismay, the district ignored the demands and made only a few counter-offers, including rejecting any improvements to the working conditions of adult education teachers. The district also shared an anti-union proposal to limit and prevent all concerted UTLA action, including a ban on sympathy strikes for other underpaid education workers. LAUSD let the contract expire, and we had no positive movement in our negotiations.

Likewise, what is known of the negotiations between the SEIU, which covers janitorial and other school support staff, and the district reveals that a rotten deal is being struck there as well.

A SEIU page presented the district’s miserable salary proposal to its members in provocative terms: “For 2020-21 – ZERO!” Nothing! No! said the webpage.

This will be followed by a 5% increase over 2021-22, a 4% increase and a one-time bonus of 3% over 2022-23, followed by a 4% increase and a one-time bonus by 3% over 2023-24.

It’s been nearly half a decade of bitter, bitter teacher struggles: strikes and protests around the world since the 2018 wildcat strike in West Virginia. The strategy of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Democratic-aligned National Education Association (NEA) has been to systematically isolate each of these struggles and cut deals entirely within the framework of bipartisan austerity and the privatization of schools.

The six-day strike by 34,000 teachers in Los Angeles, California in January 2019 was no exception. They were fighting for more than higher wages. The broader concerns they expressed – about overcrowded classrooms, schools without nurses, librarians and counselors – were overwhelmingly supported by students and their families, who cheered on striking teachers and came out in thousands at union rallies. Many brought food to picket lines and marched with their children alongside teachers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread in 2020, teachers have been used around the world to push through the herd immunity policies of the ruling classes through measures to reopen criminal schools, resulting in death countless educators and students.

As the new school year has begun in the United States, the struggle of teachers around the world against these policies and to make up for the unresolved issues of the 2018-2019 waves of educator strikes, promised another year of struggle, bringing teachers in strikes in Columbus, Ohio; Seattle, Washington and other places.

Teachers must not allow a repeat of the betrayal of 2019. It is time for teachers and school workers to take matters into their own hands, forming rank-and-file committees to shift power from the union apparatuses into the hands of educators themselves .

Los Angeles Educators Rank-and-File Committee calls on teachers to reject UTLA’s pay and anti-strike demands, hold a mass assembly of educators and classified staff to discuss and craft demands that make up for years reduction in real wages, and which reflect the real cost of living in Los Angeles. He also proposes that teachers in Los Angeles join their struggle with those of teachers across the country and around the world, for common strike action.

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