Umbrellas in hand and signs at the ready, union members across the city joined their United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) brothers and sisters on the picket lines on the first day of the Los Angeles Unified School District teachers strike.
More than 30,000 members at 900 schools left their jobs Monday over issues of class size, staffing levels, pay raises and the threat of privatization. The striking UTLA members were joined by hundreds of parents, many accompanied by their children who they had pulled out of class in a gesture of solidarity.
“Our children are not commodities,” said Nancy Burawski, a math teacher at Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys and the chapter chair for UTLA. “We should not be trying to pay the cheapest amount of services for them. There’s a place for for-profit businesses, but it’s not in education.”
“UTLA knows investing resources in schools and disinvesting in charter schools and co-location will improve the educational experience of every student,” added Ruby Christian-Brougham, Los Angeles Valley College Chapter Chair for American Federation of Teachers, Local 1521. “A quality education is for every student, not just a few.”
Strikers took to the picket lines in front of their schools starting at 7 am and marched until 9. A downtown rally drew an estimated 20,000 who marched from Grand Park to the district headquarters. Striking educators returned to the picket lines for an afternoon shift at 2 pm. The school site protests drew honks and shouts of support from passing motorists.
Third grade teacher Robert Reyes, a UTLA liaison for Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood, remembers walking the picket line during a teachers strike with his parents – both of whom were teachers – when he was a child in New Jersey.
“That made an impact,” Reyes said. “it’s impressive to see teachers leave the classroom and really continue teaching us as students that it’s bigger than just learning what 1 plus 1 is, and that history repeats itself. If we don’t stand up and learn from past organized gatherings in order to push forward, then the same kinds of oppressive actions will continue.”
Picketers at Gardner were joined by representatives from entertainment industry unions: officers from IATSE Local 600, the International Cinematographers Guild which has its national offices nearby. Representatives from IATSE Local 700, the Editors Guild, are also expected to picket at Gardner.
Local 600 National President Steven Poster noted the feeling of solidarity and camaraderie on the line and urged his membership to take a shift.
“If you want to talk about national defense, teach the students. It’s the most important way to make our country great again,” Poster said. “Nothing else would do as much as a good education. We’ve seen some very good success with strikes from teachers before and I think we’re going to see some great success in this one.”