Los Angeles teachers from one of the nation’s largest school districts went on strike Monday – for the first time in three decades – following recent examples of success in other states.
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The strike, which is expected to involve as many as 35,000 union members, was postponed after initially being expected to take place last week.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) claim they have been negotiating for 20 months, while working without a contract for more than a year. Among the group’s demands are higher pay, smaller class sizes, more support staff members, as well as addressing the $600 million worth of resources allegedly drained away to prop up charter schools.
The school district – which projects a budget deficit of about $500 million this year – has said the union’s demands could cause it to go bankrupt, according to The Los Angeles Times. The union is said to be seeking a 6.5 percent raise at the outset of a two-year contract.
The school system is also bogged down by pension payments for retirees, according to The Associated Press. The union wants health care coverage for members to remain unchanged.
A strike was approved in August by 98 percent of UTLA members – it is the organization’s first since 1989. The union held a march in the streets last month.
On its website, the LAUSD detailed its offer to raise pay by 6 percent over two years of a three-year contract, issue back pay for the 2017-2018 school year and invest $100 million to add 1,000 new staff members, among other concessions.
There are more than 600,000 students across the 900 LAUSD schools. Schools will remain open on Monday.
The Los Angeles teacher’s union has been emboldened by the success of similar movements in other states – including West Virginia, where schools closed for nine days as teachers fought for higher wages and better benefits. In March, they ultimately scored a 5 percent pay raise.
Educators held more strikes in 2018 than at any other time in the past 25 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Teachers in Arizona won a nearly 20 percent raise.
Strikes also occurred in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Colorado and Kentucky last year.
The strikes come after a Supreme Court ruling seemingly dealt a blow to labor unions last year, determining that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay a “fair share” fee to unions for the coverage and protection afforded to them under collective bargaining if they choose not to be members.