Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Thousands of L.A. Teachers March as Union Nears First Strike in Nearly 30 Years

The March for Public Education, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, was meant to be a show of force to Supt. Austin Beutner, who has said Los Angeles Unified School District does not have the funds to meet the union's demands and ensure the district's financial solvency in future years.

By Sonali Kohli

Thousands of teachers, students and union allies marched through downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, from City Hall to the Broad museum, a month ahead of a possible strike that L.A. educators have threatened if the district doesn't meet demands that include retroactive raises, smaller class sizes and more nurses and counselors.

The March for Public Education, organized by United Teachers Los Angeles, was meant to be a show of force to Supt. Austin Beutner, who has said Los Angeles Unified School District does not have the funds to meet the union's demands and ensure the district's financial solvency in future years.

Thousands filled Grand Park and the western steps of City Hall leading up to the 10:30 a.m. rally, holding signs that said, "We work for the people," "Education is a human right," and others that called for more reasonable hours for teachers, improved arts education and more nurses.

The march was sandwiched by rallies at both ends, with local and national education activists, teachers and students reiterating the demands.

"Amidst the wealth of Los Angeles, we should not have class sizes of 45 students," UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl told the crowd from a truck's flatbed, adding that after 20 months of bargaining, "the time draws closer to taking dramatic action."

Around 11 a.m., the marchers, most wearing bright red in support of UTLA, walked down Broadway and through the 3rd Street tunnel up to the Broad museum to protest the role that they say billionaires such as Eli Broad are playing in the growth of charter schools, most of which are not unionized and pull students from district schools.

The tunnel boomed with echoes of "UTLA," with protesters stretching back to the starting point. Although not all participants were UTLA members themselves, the turnout was a reminder that Los Angeles Unified, the nation's second-largest school district with more than half a million students, would be starkly affected if a strike does happen.

The crowd was full of union families, some of which included L.A. Unified students who said that they too will strike if their parents and teachers do.

Toby Smith has been a dance teacher for 14 years and said she works with 2,000 students at eight different schools. Arts education can be a powerful force in getting kids to love school, but it's hard to form connections and address needs with so many students, she said.

The district's latest proposal offers a 3% raise starting retroactively from July 1, 2017, followed by an additional 3% raise taking effect from July 1, 2018. The union wants a 6.5% raise retroactive to July 1, 2016.

L.A. Unified officials say their offer would increase district costs by $430 million over the three-year life of the contract. They say the union demand would cost $750 million over that same time.

Teachers in L.A. Unified earn $44,000 to $86,000 a year depending on their education and experience, according to the L.A. County Office of Education, which compiles the data. L.A. Unified says the average teacher salary is $75,000, which reflects the district's older, more experienced workforce.

For some teachers, this wouldn't be their first strike. Malabar Elementary School teachers Jeff Hiroto and Rosalind Marquez started teaching at the school together almost 35 years ago and went on strike in 1989. The nine days out of class were worth the improvements they saw, they said.

Teachers in 1989 were able to maintain health benefits and were relieved of recess and lunch supervision duties, Hiroto said.

Now, he wants to see raises as well as more nurses and mental health resources for students. "In elementary the kids are always getting hurt," he said.

Jackie Goldberg, the UTLA-endorsed candidate for the school board's District 5 seat vacated by Ref Rodriguez this year, spoke outside the Broad museum. Teachers and support staff "every day make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people," she said, before thanking the union for its endorsement.

Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.


(c)2018 the Los Angeles Times

Special Projects
Sponsored Stories
Sponsored
In recent years, local governments have been forced to adapt to a wildly changing world, especially as it pertains to sending bills and collecting payments.
Sponsored
Workplace safety is in the spotlight as government leaders adapt to a prolonged pandemic.
Sponsored
While government employees, students and the general public had to wait in line for hours in the beginning of the pandemic, at-home test kits make it easy to diagnose for the novel coronavirus in less than 30 minutes.
Sponsored
Governments around the nation are working to design the best vaccine policies that keep both their employees and their residents safe. Although the latest data shows a variety of polarizing perspectives, there are clear emerging best practices that leading governments are following to put trust first: creating policies that are flexible and provide a range of options, and being in tune with the needs and sentiments of their employees so that they are able to be dynamic and accommodate the rapidly changing situation.
Sponsored
Service delivery and the individual experience within health and human services (HHS) is often very siloed and fragmented.
Sponsored
In this episode, Marianne Steger explains why health care for Pre-Medicare retirees and active employees just got easier.
Sponsored
Government organizations around the world are experiencing the consequences of plagiarism firsthand. A simple mistake can lead to loss of reputation, loss of trust and even lawsuits. It’s important to avoid plagiarism at all costs, and government organizations are held to a particularly high standard. Fortunately, technological solutions such as iThenticate allow government organizations to avoid instances of text plagiarism in an efficient manner.
Sponsored
Creating meaningful citizen experiences in a post-COVID world requires embracing digital initiatives like secure and ethical data sharing, artificial intelligence and more.
Sponsored
GHD identified four themes critical for municipalities to address to reach net-zero by 2050. Will you be ready?