This is part of a series highlighting the efforts of organized labor and featured in Labor 411’s print directories. Click here to order your copy and support Labor 411!
The 2018 year began on a high note with all eight employee unions reaching agreement on a three-year healthcare provision with Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The agreement preserved current healthcare plans with no cuts or additional costs; no two-tier system with lower benefits for new employees; and a guaranteed reserve to help pay for cost increases beyond 2020.
Looking back, that agreement has been both as a bellwether for the fight that United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) would face with LAUSD and a kick-off to what many would label The Year of the Teacher.
Across the country, teachers engaged in strikes that drew attention to the state of public education. That led inevitably to educators seeking office in great numbers during the November midterm elections. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) reported that approximately 300 of its members ran for office in 2018, tripling the number that would normally enter the political fray. The National Education Association (NEA) reported 1,800 educators seeking office, of whom 1,080 were elected.
In Wisconsin, former teacher and superintendent Tony Evers unseated long-time organized labor nemesis Scott Walker. Former high school teacher Tim Waltz took the governorship for Minnesota and Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor of Michigan after campaigning against cuts to funding in public schools.
Back in Los Angeles, after years of failed negotiations, UTLA went on strike for the first time in 30 years. After a week on the picket lines in the pouring rain, the union received a number of concessions from LAUSD, including class size reductions, more support staff and more oversight of the charter industry.
“We went on strike in one of the largest strikes the United States has seen in decades, and the creativity and innovation and passion and love and emotion of our members was out on the street in the communities, in the parks, for everyone to see,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, speaking at a press conference with School Superintendent Austin Beutner and Mayor Eric Garcetti Tuesday at Los Angeles City Hall. “I’m so proud of our members…who took it upon themselves in record numbers on the picket lines to express what we’ve all known but has been a truth hard to tell sometimes, which is that public education desperately needs attention.”