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Rank-and-file teachers in LA fight back

By Randy Childs, United Teachers Los Angeles | October 31, 2003 | Page 11

LOS ANGELES--United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) held rallies at school administrative offices around the city October 23, the union's first mobilization since its contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) expired last June. LA teachers have faced a severe budget pinch and threats by LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer against salaries and health care benefits, with barely a peep of protest from our union.

But nearly 1,000 teachers showed up at the rallies, demonstrating a high level of anger among the more than 45,000 unionized teachers about the conditions in LA's public schools. Each of the five rallies was held outside of a "mini-district" office.

Created in 1999, the mini-districts symbolize the incredible amount bureaucracy and waste in LAUSD. This year, LAUSD increased the mini-districts' budgets by $37 million while slashing $50 per student from the classroom. Since the formation of the mini-districts, LAUSD has gained 62 administrative positions while eliminating 3,000 classroom positions.

More than 300 teachers rallied at a mini-district office in the Harbor area of the city and then marched to join a picket line of striking grocery workers at a nearby Vons supermarket. Not a single shopper entered the store while the teachers were there.

Rallies at the other four offices were also successful, and two more rallies at other offices are planned for November. None of this would have happened without the efforts of rank-and-file activists in Progressive Educators for Action (PEAC), a dissident group within UTLA.

PEAC initiated the mobilization efforts, helping to organize volunteer mobilization committees in every area of the city--without waiting for permission from union leaders. UTLA President John Perez eventually endorsed the rallies, but moved to censor the demands raised by the rank-and-file mobilization committees.

October 23 was a great first step--but we can't count on Perez to take the second step. More teachers need to become active in PEAC to keep our union fighting for our interests.

Maya de Leon and Sarah Knopp also contributed to this report. For more information about PEAC, call 310-869-6321.

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