Showing Support for Teachers at the 2012 UTLA Leadership Conference

Changes in the law—be they through legislative initiatives or the power of the ballot box—bookended the discussions at the 2012 United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Leadership Conference.

From Governor Jerry Brown’s rousing early morning speech to UTLA President Warren Fletcher’s impactful address to the troops, and all the discussions in-between, the need to be informed, united and organized in order to advocate for the students and the profession was made crystal clear.

“Education is always a big challenge,” said Brown. “Ten years from now your issues will be different; they are always changing. But at the end of the day, it’s teachers, kids, families and the money it takes to run the system that never changes.

“Now it’s time to fight for your survival. We’re going to beat Proposition 32, and at the same time, we have to have a yes on Proposition 30.”

Referring to the latter, he added: “This tax is fair in terms of pure justice. People who make a lot will give back a little. All that money will go to teachers, libraries, etc., not to the Cayman Islands.

“I’m going to do everything I can to win.”

Such dedication and determination are welcomed by Fletcher, who believes, “The floor will fall out of K-12 funding if Proposition 30 fails.”

He is quick to add, however, that in regards to both propositions, “acknowledging challenges doesn’t mean surrender.”

The same could be said of Senate Bill (SB) 863, the new Workers’ Compensation “reform” that Brown recently signed into law. David Goldstein, a partner at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK) opened up the GEK workshop by providing a brief overview of SB 863, adding, “We’re going to analyze and interpret every word of this new law to benefit you. One thing is definite, though, SB 863 makes it even more important to have an attorney on your side in the early stages of a Workers’ Compensation claim.”

Goldstein and his colleagues, attorneys Larry Goldstein and Vincent Vallin Bennett, then proceeded to discuss some of the myriad issues teachers face on a daily basis that severely impact their health and well-being.

“We covered a broad range of topics from stress and hostile work environment to toxic schools and age discrimination. It is clear that teachers are facing unprecedented challenges that put their health and, too often, the lives at risk. And though the legal system is designed to help level the playing field, justice for injured teachers can be a hard-won battle.

“Our presentation spurred a great deal of discussion. These teachers weighed in on the food allergy fear that goes along with breakfast in the classroom, the ‘janitorial duties’ they must assume for fear of being written up, even the ‘shadow’ that follows a male kindergarten teacher in the aftermath  of the Miramonte scandal.

“The bottom line is that teachers work in pain and they work hurt, and they do it for the children. We are proud to represent them.”

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