California, USA teachers keep fighting

Striking teachers at Los Angeles, USA demonstration

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA:

“There’s only so much workers can take and now we’re rising up”

Mass demonstration as Los Angeles strike reaches fifth day

By our reporters

19 January 2019

Tens of thousands of striking Los Angeles teachers and their supporters descended on Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles Friday as the walkout by more than 33,000 educators in the second-largest school district in America reached its fifth day. The teachers, who have won the support of the overwhelming majority of city residents, are fighting low pay, overcrowded classrooms, lack of sufficient nurses, school psychologists and librarians and the growth of charter schools.

As an estimated 60,000 rallied in the second-largest school district in the US, opposition by teachers spread across California and the nation. Also, on Friday, more than 500 teachers at 10 schools in Oakland, California carried out a wildcat “sickout” followed by a march and rally to fight plans to close one-third of the city’s schools. … In a provocative action, Oakland Unified School District superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell threatened teachers that for each 1 percent raise they achieve, more than $2 million will be cut in benefits or school services.

Virginia teachers, inspired by the strike in Los Angeles, will rally on January 28 in front of the state legislature in the capital of Richmond. Teachers are outraged that they make $9,000 a year less than the national average, even as the state legislature recently approved more than $573 million in tax breaks for Amazon.

The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union, which resumed negotiations with the school district on Thursday, is expected to continue talks over the weekend that are being mediated by the city’s Democratic mayor, Eric Garcetti. The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that Garcetti hoped the “strategic plan” issued by district superintendent and former investment banker Austin Beutner could be used as a “vehicle for collaboration” between the district and the UTLA.

Beutner’s strategic plan involves carving up the district into 32 neighborhood “networks” based on a so-called portfolio model, which would pave the way for the shutdown of more traditional public schools and their replacement by publicly funded but privately run charter schools. Under the rule of the state Democratic Party, California already has the largest number of charters (1,300) in the nation, and Los Angeles has more than any other city. In addition, there are 102 charters that “co-locate” inside LAUSD schools grabbing up space, resources and students from traditional schools. …

The World Socialist Web Site spoke to several teachers at the rally. Julie Beres, a LAUSD teacher, attended the rally with her 15-year-old son Phil.

Phil said, “I think it’s really unfair because my mom basically lost her job and now I have to step up at 15 and get a job so that my mom has help paying the mortgage. I’m infuriated that we might be homeless at the end of this month. I’m infuriated about what’s going on in our future.”

When asked about the role of the Democratic Party, Julie said, “Frankly, all of the politicians are corrupt. Our school board member in my district was put in there by big money and resigned and faced a felony because of the billionaires who use the political system. The only way to do this is for workers to organize independently so that the corruption doesn’t happen. …

I think a nationwide strike would do good to show the plight of all of us because in some of the states they were paid so little for so long. If we all walked out and it was a nationwide strike, it would call attention to what was going on.”

Mariah, a high school student who attended the rally with her friend David, said, “We go to a small high school of 350 students and we still have up to 49 students in a class. We have one counselor who can only come twice a week, which is ridiculous because they’ve been cutting classes due to budget cuts.”

A section of the crowd in Los Angeles

David said, “My math class was cut halfway through and I was forced to take it online, and then they cut the online course!”

On Thursday, WSWS reporters spoke with teachers and students at schools in the area of South Gate in south central Los Angeles. Carolina, who teaches fourth grade at Independence Elementary School, said, “The oligarchs and billionaires abuse the workers. They’re taking advantage of the workers. Finally, there’s only so much the workers can take, and now they’re rising up and demanding their rights.

“The district wants us to have 39 kids in a classroom in 4th through 6th grades. Right now, I have about 31. If they make it 39 kids, I will have to move my desk out of the room. We’re getting fed up with all this.”

At the downtown rally, Israel spoke about the abysmal conditions at his school. “It’s like daycare, we just sit down and go on the computer, but everything is blocked. They teach every kid the same thing in the same books. No actual math, no English, just chapter books. No nurses. No one knows what to do if some get sick or hurt. We have one counselor for 350 kids at Walnut Park Middle School.”

Greg is a teacher who commented on former Obama education secretary Arne Duncan’s recent statements in the Hill where he told Los Angeles teachers to drop their demands because there simply wasn’t enough money. “Screw Arne Duncan!” Greg said, “He came out in favor of charter schools.”

Mary teaches at the West Valley Occupational Center, which has adult education programs including job training, GED training and English as a Second Language classes.

“The district keeps shutting down our programs. We can’t get a nursing program because the district doesn’t want to pay for teacher nurses. This is really important though because there is a shortage of nurses in the United States.

“Prior to 2012, we had 3,500 instructors who are a small portion of the school district but were very important. We used to have 30 different adult schools. In 2012, they shut down the program. It was eventually reopened but it’s much smaller. Today, it’s between 660 or 900 teachers left.”

Asked about the significance of the teachers’ strike, Mary said, “We’re fighting for our lives in adult education. The regular teachers are facing 57 students in a class. We’re all fighting for our lives. After all, Donald Trump said, ‘I love the uneducated.’”

By Jonathan Burleigh in the USA:

Oakland teachers hold second wildcat “sickout,” call for statewide strike with Los Angeles teachers

19 January 2019

In a demonstration of independent initiative and defiance of the state-sponsored contract negotiations process, hundreds of Oakland teachers conducted a one-day wildcat “sickout” Friday. The majority of teachers at nine schools called in sick and picketed outside Oakland Technical High School, where students and community members joined them in solidarity.

The crowd of over 500 people marched two miles down Broadway Avenue and rallied outside Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) headquarters downtown, demanding full funding for education, a raise in teachers’ pay and the halting of all school closures.

Part of the rally in Oakland

The sickout is part of the growing international upsurge of the working class in 2019. It takes place as over 30,000 teachers are striking in Los Angeles, over 70,000 Mexican “maquiladora” workers are engaged in a wildcat strike …, a general strike of 700,000 public sector workers is shaking Tunisia, and as the “Yellow Vest” protesters in France prepare for their tenth week of confrontations with the French police and state apparatus.

These struggles are a continuation and deepening of the militant struggles that took place in 2018, including the statewide wildcat strikes by teachers in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma and other states in the US.

… Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017 and have begun to take independent initiative themselves, with yesterday’s sickout more than tripling the number of schools and teachers participating over the last sickout in December.

The school district unsuccessfully sought to intimidate teachers to prevent the sickout, with two district officials sending a brief email Tuesday that labeled the action “illegal” 12 times. One portion reads, “any sickouts, walk-outs or strikes conducted during this time are illegal and employees are subject to consequences for participation.” The letter also threatens that teachers “will be subject to disciplinary action and will lose pay for time missed.”

Oakland High students

In another official email sent Thursday evening, OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell openly stated that any pay raises secured by teachers will be offset by budget cuts, including layoffs. She wrote, “Each one percent raise that teachers receive, equals an additional $1.9 million per year in costs to the District for their additional wages and benefits. When we add in all represented employees, such as support staff and others, the costs rise to about $3.5 million for each 1 percent raise.” Later, the email states, “to pay for increases for employee salaries, additional reductions in other areas will be necessary.” …

Oakland teachers supporting the World Socialist Web Site’s call for independent rank-and-file committees distributed hundreds of copies of the recent WSWS Teachers Newsletter statement, “A fighting strategy for California teachers” which was met with great interest by teachers at the rally.

Teachers, students and community members expressed complete agreement with the call for a statewide strike to carry forward the struggle both in Oakland and Los Angeles.

Tara, an OUSD teacher who was out with her daughter, said, “I’m here because I’m being priced out of Oakland, I can’t pay the ever-increasing rent, and I’m also here for our youth. We need reduced class sizes. These cuts effect our most marginalized youth.”


Asked about the demand for a statewide strike, Tara declared, “I totally support it. It’s a growing movement, not just statewide but nationwide. We need to wake up and be aware of the corporate spending and the billionaire and millionaire agenda behind this. They are packaging a product to sell now, and we have to fight back. We want to protect public education, and I support universal education and universal health care, which are human rights.”

Dozens of students joined their teachers for the picket, march and rally. Oakland Technical High School senior Mahlet told the WSWS, “I’m here to support our teachers. A lot of our classes don’t have textbooks and that’s not fair. Our teachers deserve to get paid way more for all the work that they do outside of school. They should get paid enough to live where they work.”

She commented, “Our priorities aren’t right. All the money that we spend on incarceration, on each prisoner instead of each student, is a big issue.”

Students from Oakland Tech

In discussing the need to unify with LA teachers, Meka said, “I think a statewide strike is probably the best thing to do, to have all the teachers in the state stand in solidarity with each other. I think the OUSD School Board has a history of not really following what the teachers are asking for, so if everyone in California stands up together, they’ll be more likely to pay attention.” Mahlet added, “I think you’d see a ton of students standing with their teachers as well if that were to happen.”

Also joining his teachers from MetWest High School was Ryan, who declared, “Regarding school closures, it will just make a bad situation worse and make the schools that stay open more overcrowded. Students whose schools close will either move to another school farther away or just drop out altogether. Wherever they go, there won’t be enough resources to serve them.”

His friend Donna, a student at Oakland High School, said, “Oakland and LA should team up to bring attention to our state. A statewide strike would show that we’re serious.”

Rachel, an Illustration teacher at Skyline High School with two years’ experience in Oakland, declared, “The low wages, budget cuts and school closures in Oakland are absolute bullshit.”


She strongly supported the call for a statewide strike, declaring, “I definitely support a statewide strike because these are statewide issues and we get a lot of our funding from the state. If we could all band together and fight collectively, then maybe we could actually get more state funding. We all know, obviously, that OUSD has a huge financial deficit, which is very real. So if the state actually provided the funding that the district needs, maybe they could fund our teachers and programs and get out of the deficit.”

Many teachers spoke very critically of the attack under way against public education and the need for a broader movement of the working class to combat the drive towards privatization.

A teacher with the AmeriCorps program who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told the WSWS, “I’m a math teacher. When they say, ‘There’s no money’ that’s not true, and I’m happy to help them do the math.” She continued, “If Trump is shutting down the government for $5.1 billion to fund the wall, the real shutdown should be for our schools and that money should be funding our schools. Instead they are funding prisons; how many more prisons have we opened up? They spend more on prisons then they do on students.”

She noted, “This all has to do with capitalism and the way that we run our country. If the government wants to keep the divide between the rich and the poor, then they are doing a very good job of it.”

David, a teacher at Life Academy with six years, criticized AFT President Randi Weingarten’s tweet last week regarding the looming LA teachers strike, in which she wrote, “This is not about a strike wave—this is a specific fight for the kids & public schools of LA.”


David declared, “I totally disagree with this being a local issue. There’s no such thing as a local issue in this state or country. If we leave it to be local issues, then we’ll continue to see Oakland teachers underfunded and undervalued, and LA teachers underfunded and undervalued, it’s just going to be a problem that continues. Unless there’s statewide action nothing will change. I would love to see a statewide strike, and I think we should absolutely have one.”

David also commented on the need for a broader social struggle to secure the rights of the working class, saying, “We’re all out here fighting for lower class sizes and higher pay for teachers, but the reality is that unless things change dramatically in how wealth is distributed—not just here in Oakland, but statewide, nationwide, and globally—then there will continue to be fights for the most basic needs and necessities.”

7 thoughts on “California, USA teachers keep fighting

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