Striking a Chord with Justice for Teachers and Students

Rain or shine, they walked the line in 2019 and now they—United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA)—plan to strengthen their strike victory by enforcing the new contract and launching a platform—"Our New Deal for Public Schools"—which was unveiled during the group's 2019 Leadership Conference. 

Their goal is to "restore, reinvest and reclaim the promise of public education" by focusing their organizing efforts on the following five principles:

  • Nurture the Whole Child
  • Respect Educators
  • Respect Students and Parents
  • Fully Fund Public Schools
  • Stop Privatization

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl addressed the approximately 800 teachers in attendance at the conference, applauding everyone's efforts in what he described as "our strike, our movement, our future." According to Caputo-Pearl, the strike, the largest public sector strike of its kind, put UTLA on the national map, and is being studied internationally.

UTLA teacher and student studying

"The most important aspect of the strike was an explosion of grass roots leadership," he said. He heralded the 98 percent participation rate and the fact that 60,000 people were out there on the lines every day.  "We proved that strikes work," exemplified by a nurse in every school, a librarian in every school, more school psychologists, more space and less bungalows.

"It was invigorating to hear UTLA leaders celebrating their victory and learning about their plans to build on that success," says attorney David Goldstein, co-managing partner of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, who was attending his 33rd such conference. "It was great to see the leaders sign The New Deal pledge, which focuses on the students, their parents and the teachers.

"We have been representing injured teachers for 40 years, and have seen more than most people could imagine in terms of the physical and emotional toll the profession has on many of them.  We have long pledged to fight for justice on their behalf; it's a great feeling to know that we are all in this together.

"During the various speeches throughout the conference, the teachers' challenges and issues were being addressed, and they let the speakers know they appreciated being 'heard' through cheers, applause and shout-outs," explains Goldstein. "The enthusiasm that was evident during the strike, made its way into the ballroom of the Bonaventure Hotel; it was great to experience."

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