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LAUSD Strike Ends

The facts you need to know about the agreement, and why this was a progressive change

You may know a few things about the UTLA teacher strike that has taken place this last week from the article I wrote about it or elsewhere. You probably know that children who attend public school in Los Angeles County had the week off, while parents did not. You may know that people were standing outside schools picketing—and you may have even honked your horn in support or joined in. You may know there were some negotiations taking place behind the scenes, too.

But now that an agreement has officially been reached, you may wonder what has actually changed, and you may be left considering if it was enough. What negotiations were settled on? What will happen tomorrow when students return to school? What will happen in the next three years as the UTLA and LAUSD agreement unfolds?

These are not easy questions to pick apart and digest. Rather than digging through all the jargon yourself, continue reading for the stripped-down facts about what was agreed upon between UTLA and LAUSD. Perhaps even more pertinent to your interests is not what was decided upon, but why this matters for progressives; that’s here too.

24 points were agreed upon in the official summary published on January 22, six days after the strike started. I will not be mentioning every single point, but I will be referencing some highlights that are worth celebrating from a progressive viewpoint.

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Fair wages achieved for teachers

UTLA succeeded when it struck in 1989. After a 9-day strike, UTLA was victorious in securing three consecutive years of 8 percent pay increases for teachers. Yes, this is more than the 6 percent salary increase that was agreed upon in the 2019 negotiations; however, in ‘89, it was shortly followed by the 1990 recession, and successive layoffs of teachers. This balanced 6 percent increase shows UTLA learned from 1889, and is making efforts to support its teachers while still compromising with the school district.

Big business kept out of public, democratic institutions

Community involvement among parents, students, and UTLA allies made much more possible this round of negotiations, all with students in mind. This is a victory for UTLA, but also for unions and collective bargaining everywhere.

A resolution was passed in the recent agreement to put a cap on charter schools. Charter schools have historically introduced privatization into public education—a no-no for democracy (according to John Oliver and many others). This resolution is one step in the progressive direction to moving big business out of public spaces, toward equality.

This is a huge victory for unions

The LAUSD is only required to negotiate three things with UTLA: Wages, hours, and working conditions. However, community involvement among parents, students, and UTLA allies made much more possible this round of negotiations, all with students in mind. This is a victory for UTLA, but also for unions and collective bargaining everywhere.

Student interests supported from a socially-conscious perspective

Also agreed upon was an exemption of “random searches” at 28 schools and a plan to help immigrant families achieve success. These are explicitly socially conscious ideals, and will benefit low-income, minority families above all. Also, the plan to increase green spaces on campuses will hopefully introduce environmentally conscious spaces into K-12 education, a necessity in an era in which we must teach our children about climate change.

These are simply some standout aspects of the negotiation in my mind, but more was negotiated, and more positive change is being made. More nurses, counselors, and librarians will be available to children. More funding will go to adult education. Smaller class sizes will go into effect over the next three years, and less energy will be spent on standardized test prep.

As Mayor Eric Garcetti put it after the tentative agreement was made between UTLA and LAUSD on Tuesday afternoon, “this is a historic agreement. It gets to lower class sizes, it gets to proper support, staff and community-based schools, special ed, adult ed, expanded green space, and the list goes on.” The list does go on, and as we watch these changes go into effect, it is likely we will continue to see collective bargaining and organizing increase—not just at UTLA, but across the country. This strike, and this agreement, is a good indication of that.

Rebecca Gross

Rebecca Gross