UTLA Gears Up to Form a United Front to Protect the Rights of Teachers and Students
This is a vital time for United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). The group's year-long bargaining efforts that include such contract proposals as lower class sizes, less testing, support for special education, charter accountability, fair pay, and more counselors, nurses, psychologists and teacher librarians have not been well-received by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
As a result, they're ready to strike to achieve their goals, if necessary. The group's annual conference provided the perfect backdrop for them to focus on "getting our sites organized and on solid strike footing," according to a letter from the Officer Team to the conference attendees.
Going on strike is not what they want to do, but the officers feel that, "being ready is our best shot at winning the respect educators and students deserve." In fact, the theme of the 2018 conference was "All in for Respect"—respect for the profession and respect for schools that Los Angeles students deserve.
So, the UTLA leadership (officers, area representatives and chapter and committee chairpersons) convened at the Bonaventure Hotel, and planned the best way to drive the conversation with the members in order to form a united front as defenders of productive and effective public education.
This is a tall order considering the move to privatize the LAUSD. As the UTLA officers see it, the hiring of Austin Beutner as LAUSD superintendent has "accelerated the pro-privatization agenda of Nick Melvoin, Monica Garcia, Eli Broad, the California Charter Schools Association and their allies." That agenda is seen as a "roadmap" for major cuts in the future, including larger class sizes, staff layoffs and healthcare cuts, among other things.
"From a Workers' Compensation perspective, this roadmap will most likely lead to an increase in workplace injuries and illnesses, particularly because there will be fewer teachers and ancillary staff members tending to the needs of more children per classroom," says David Goldstein, a co-managing partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). "It's a recipe for disaster.
"For more than four decades we have represented teachers who have been hurt at work, whether it be from a specific injury, such as falling on a playground, or due to cumulative trauma claims associated with, for instance, the repetitive physical nature of many of their workplace functions.
"In addition, time and again, we have been witness to the hazardous conditions faced by teachers in the LAUSD, including, but not limited to, toxic environments and workplace violence that occurs inside the classroom and from the outside community.
"Our teachers—and their students—deserve better, which is why every year we support UTLA's conference and are always available to represent injured teachers and provide them with the workers' compensation training they need so they are knowledgeable about the full range of benefits to which they are entitled should they get hurt at work.
"We at GEK are 'All in for Respect' for our UTLA brothers and sisters, and for keeping public schools public."