Victory to the UTLA Teachers Strike!

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Victory to the UTLA Teachers Strike!

 
Oakland Teachers prepare for Strike with series of Solidarity actions with Los Angeles Teachers, reviving the Red4Ed strike wave of 2018.

 Oakland teachers have been working without contract since July, 2017 and are demanding 12% for three years, which barely covers inflation; management offers only 5%.  The Oakland teachers in the OEA know their struggle is broader than their district and have launched a series of solidarity actions with the UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles). LA teachers are poised to strike Monday and Solidarity actions with them have been held in the Bay Area uniting Oakland and Fremont teachers with parents, students and trade unionists who feel the pinch and ongoing attack on public education. University of California professors from UPTE see the direct link to the struggle for public education.

The Regents want to take away the cap on insurance contributions by the employees and the regents are facing a pension crunch because they underfunded the pension for 20 years leading up to the 2008 crash, because they were counting on stock market rises to fulfill obligations, as were the State employees pension fund administrators, who now claim their fund will be in the black for the next 20 years. Workers have a right to think their methodology is bogus and even legalized racketeering. They robbed you.

Defending the for-profit health care system is a task taken on by the California Legislature and Governor.  They refused to pass single payer health care.  And as they try to balance the underfunding of pension packages, they do so by forcing employees to make larger contributions for pre-funding retirement medical insurance with deductions now taken by virtue of the last two state worker contracts. This was accomplished by the for-profit partners of Blanning and Baker LLC, which tag teams as the executive director of California Young Democrats and the PECG (state engineer employee union) and CAPS (state scientists employee association).  They  foisted the give back first on the state engineers  and scientists in the 2015 contract, from whence it spread as a fait accompli, across the other state employee unions and now teachers are facing similar demands from the politicos. Will  Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom and his education secretary Tony Thurmond stand with Jerry Brown  and the neo-liberals, or will they stand by the workers, parents and students they promised to protect?  We see the attacks and know their answer.

The attack has been multi-pronged.  Stagnating wages fall behind the actual cost of living in the area teachers work and live. According to the UTLA

Since 2008, the cost of living in LA has increased 27% yet the district offers stagnant wages and healthcare.”  Kyle Stokes in News reports, “The parameters of LAUSD’s salary offer to the teachers union remained largely the same — a 6 percent increase, including 3 percent in back-pay to July 2017 — though district officials clarified (as they had done informally already) that they would no longer make the raise contingent on teachers completing 12 hours of additional training.

The limits on school resources are driving teachers to make un-reimbursed purchases for teaching materials. The use of PAR evaluations target veteran teachers so they can be replaced by younger teachers at the bottom of the pay scale, and so that veteran teachers do not complete their retirement vestment period for full pension and long term medical insurance. (See link interviews at Labor Video Project’s 8 min mark).

Veteran teachers and parents know that “Class Size Matters”  when the districts and state allow overcrowding the classrooms, refuse to provide sufficient teachers and support staff and stagnant wages, you set the districts and individual schools up for failure. This creates the backdrop upon which conservative “reformers” promote privatization plans.

Racist For-Profit Union Busting Charter Schools, the baby of billionaires and Democrats 

The bipartisan support for the expansion of for-profit charter schools is a plan for their donor friends to loot the state treasury. Charter schools are an anti-union and racist ploy, according to the National Education Association, to reverse and undo school integration. In some cases, charter schools prevent integration where it never did take place!

“While only 4 percent of traditional public schools have student bodies that are 99 percent minority (2014-15 school year data), 17 percent of charter schools are 99 percent minority. Furthermore, of the 6,747 charter schools in the country, more than 1,000 had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent.”

Academics (Oluwole & Green III) have shown how the charter system in California is creating a situation that could be worse than the segregation that prevailed under Plessy v. Ferguson.

Consequently, California’s black and Latino students are presently attending public schools that are both racially segregated and poor. The typical Latino student in California attends a school that is 84% nonwhite; three-quarters of the student’s classmates are poor (Orfield & Ee, 2014). Black students on average attend schools that have more than 2.5 times as many Latinos as blacks, “thus making them a minority within a school dominated by another disadvantaged group”.

The nation’s second largest school district United Teachers of LA (UTLA) rejected the paltry offer by the LA school district, and its 33,000 members are poised to strike Monday, January 14. The county claims it cannot meet the UTLA proposals which have remained the same since April when negotiations opened. The districts net deficit has doubled from $10.9 billion to $19.6 billion between 2017 and 2018. This underfunding in the city where billionaires flaunt their wealth and philosophy of individual self-reliance, privatization and greed.

In 2015 the LAUSD pressed to make teachers cover 10% of their health insurance premiums to help the district pass the 54 million dollar burden onto the teachers so the district can compete with the invasion of the charter schools.  Eli Broad and the for-profit schools promoted by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have drained 160,000 students from the public school system into the non-union programs, which are still unable to prove their superiority to public schools by the favorite method of the bureaucrats, standardized testing.

Teachers were thus never allowed to recover from the 2008 crisis of capitalism, but were made to carry the recovery on their backs in the form of lost free medical care, just like workers in other industries and professions across the nation. Now the L.A. teachers are negotiating as we face the looming second crash forecast for 2020. Solidarity with the Teachers! No More givebacks, the unmistakable projects of labor misleadership friends-of-Democrats!  We say COLAs in all contracts and break with the Chained Cost of Living Index! Jerry Brown’s budget surplus is your money, not the playpen of the idle parasite class and their Democrat and Republican political lapdogs.

Eli Broad and Wife at his museum “The Broad”

Eli Broad, founder of KB Home (a housing developer) of California, is in the top 4 out of a cohort of 144 billionaires and he has been promoting charter schools.  Billionaires in 2017 made a push for their candidates for the LA school board. According to the LA Times,

Eli Broad, Netflix founder Reed Hastings and two Walton family siblings, poured millions into the campaigns of two charter-school advocates. These billionaire-sponsored candidates defeated two badly outspent opponents who took a more cautionary stance on expanding charters, lest they decimate the school district’s budget. In total, pro-charter groups outspent teacher unions, $9.7 million to $5.2 million.”  …. “Though a number of the billionaires who’ve involved themselves in the charter cause are conservatives and Republicans, the actual election battles they join almost always pit Democrat against Democrat –in part because nearly all big cities are now overwhelmingly Democratic.” …..”What Carnegie and today’s pro-charter rich have in common is a belief in individual betterment — but not only that. They also share a fierce opposition to collective betterment, manifested in their respective battles against unions and, in many cases, against governmentally established standards and services.” …. ”As the billionaires see it, it’s the lack of skills, not the dysfunctions of the larger economic system that they (or their parents) mastered, that is the cause of our national woes. Pure of heart though some of them may be, the charter billionaires have settled on a diagnosis, and a cure, that focuses on the deficiencies of the system’s victims, not the system itself. How very comforting for them.

Labor Misleaders Capitulating Before the Battle is Even Joined

As the Daily News reports, the UTLA union bureaucrats are already conceding on key demands:

“On Monday, negotiators for the union and district met for the first round of eleventh-hour talks.

The union showed a willingness to drop demands for control over standardized testing and budget decisions. The district, for its part, raised its offer to boost funding for staffing increases and class-size reductions by $75 million; it also maintained its offer of a 6 percent raise spread throughout the first two years of a three-year contract — though the union asked for a 6.5 percent pay bump all at once.”

And at a January 7th press conference, UTLA president Caputo-Pearl stated that “We have withdrawn six proposals because we don’t want to fall prey to legal maneuvers by (District Superintendent) Austin Beutner, who has hired a bunch of high-priced lawyers to tell us we can’t bargain these. So we’ve withdrawn them.”  Seeking to limit the struggle to what can be “legally” bargained, the UTLA has dropped the question of the “unregulated growth of charters” from strike demands, stating that they will have to deal with them outside of bargaining. Bowing down to legalism didn’t work in stopping the attacks on public education for the Chicago teachers and it won’t work for California teachers.

Caputo-Pearl wants to divert the struggle against school privatization into the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), which is majority Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party itself. Caputo-Pearl stated “We are very happy that (newly elected state School Superintendent) Tony Thurmond said it is time to have a pause on charter growth and (Governor) Gavin Newsom has made similar statements.” Lawsuits, labor boards and the Democrats are a sure recipe for defeat. The workers strength lies in our solidarity, organization, discipline, militancy and leadership.

We think the UTLA President’s comment is unacceptable and has “labor/management cooperation” oozing out all over it, which is to say, not fighting but hoping to make a next deal acceptable to pols who do not represent workers’ interests whatsoever. Rank-and-file teachers need to form strike committees to lead this strike and not collapse it into back room deals that trick and cost the membership, the kids and their families and communities! Remember! Your union belongs to you, the members. Any time is the correct time to sort out those who sell out!

For United Strike action in Oakland, Fremont, LA and across the state!

Build rank and file strike committees with an elected, fully-recallable leadership!

For an uncompromising class struggle leadership of the strike! For inter-union coordination by strike committees across the state! For a return to proven, winning class struggle methods! For the Jobs For All program!

No reliance on PERB, but only on the organized strength and power of the workers! Down with union-busting laws and strike-breaking injunctions!  No crossing picket lines!

Demilitarize the schools!  Police out of the schools. End the school to jail pipeline. Massive resources investments into deprived communities! Substandard education achievement is not the fault of the individual student but of bourgeois-individualist philosophy!

End bullying by administrators and the schoolyard thugs! For worker/teacher/staff/student self-defense!

Abolish PAR reviews.  For teacher/parent review councils. More lessons, less standardized testing!

Abolish for-profit Charters! Organize unorganized Charter Teachers!

Abolish Teach for America which converts young teachers into uncertified SCABS used to break the union!

Thirty hours work for forty hours pay!  Overtime for all work over 6 hours per day whether at school or at home in the evenings and weekends! 

For Universal free quality health care! Bring back the school nurse and a fully staffed schools.

Free education from pre-school to graduate school is a right not a privilege!

Stipends for students in need. Victory to the Graduate Student Organizing Committees!

Hungry students don’t excel in learning! Feed our students!  Free, nutritious breakfast programs now! For 21st century, relevant vocational education programs accessible to all!

For automatic COLA’s based on Economic Policy Institute statistics!

Break with the “Chained Cost of Living Index!”!

For fully funded pensions without gimmicks and takeaways.  Make the billionaires pay!

Break with the Democratic and Republican Parties!

To get off the political-economic crisis treadmill we need a fighting workers’ labor party that will embody class-political independence in every question and fight for a government of the workers and the oppressed! For solidarity with fighting workers everywhere and a new workers’ international, a world party of socialist revolution!

Sources:

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Jan 13, 2019 | Posted by in Labor Struggles, Strike, UNITED STATES | 0 comments

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