The LA teachers’ strike shows us how to win

January 18, 2019

Chapters of the International Socialist Organization and Democratic Socialists of America in Los Angeles issued a joint statement of support for the strike by the 33,000-plus members of United Teachers Los Angeles and the struggle for education justice.

AS SOCIALISTS we believe that class struggle is the best weapon working people have against capitalism’s cruelty and inequality. Not only are LA teachers striking for pay rises, better working conditions and more frontline staff, they are also waging a social justice strike. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is calling for an end to racist “random” searches in schools, an immigrant defense fund for undocumented students, green spaces, and for unused district land to be turned into affordable housing. In a district that is mainly Black and Brown and predominantly poor, this is a struggle against capitalism’s systemic racism and economic disempowerment. The teaching workforce is also 70 percent women, the vast majority of whom are women of color, so this strike is also a fight for gender and racial income equality.

The capitalist class is pulling out all the stops to discredit striking teachers, claiming that their struggle puts students at risk. But the district, backed by billionaire charter moguls like Eli Broad, have failed to convince parents and community members with their tricks and lies. Eighty percent of LA County stands with the teachers. In just over a week, the socialist-led Tacos for Teachers fund raised over $30,000 from around the city and the country. It is clear that the community stands with teachers, because it understands that teachers’ working conditions and students’ learning conditions are the same. It is crucial that we continue to build this solidarity and prevent the district from driving a wedge between parents and the strike.

Striking teachers stand up to the billionaire class in LA
Striking teachers stand up to the billionaire class in LA (Joe Brusky | MTEA)

Defending public education

This strike is about more than a pay rise. Superintendent Austin Beutner claims there is no money to fund UTLA’s demands — even though the district is sitting on nearly $2 billion in reserves. The truth is that Beutner is using a manufactured financial crisis so he can claim the district is failing. His solution is to split the LAUSD into 32 decentralized networks and use a system called the “portfolio model” to run our schools. This model is borrowed from investment banking on Wall Street. Every place in the country where a portfolio model has been implemented has seen massive charter expansion, school closures, and rampant privatization.

This strike is about defending the very existence of public education in LA. As the second-biggest district in the country, all eyes are on our fight. If the LAUSD gets away with the portfolio model it will send a message to every other district that our public schools are for sale.

The “red state” teacher rebellion turns blue

UTLA’s strike follows last year’s heroic fightbacks in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky. The teachers’ inspiring work in “Trump country” has fed a national wave of class struggle. Colorado and Oakland teachers are next. For the first time ever, charter school workers in Chicago struck. On Tuesday charters in LA joined the strike, too.

The strike wave’s progression into California is historic. In this state it is local and state Democrats who have overseen the chronic underfunding of LA’s schools. They have also allowed and encouraged the charterization of the public school system. Today, 20 percent of schools are now charters and the district diverts $600 million to them annually.

Building a socialist alternative to capitalism means holding these Democrats to account and breaking with their pro-business agenda as we move forward.

Feeding the anti-Trump resistance

Although most school funding comes from the state, the LA teachers’ strike is not just an LAUSD or California issue. The best way to fund public services across the U.S. is by taxing the wealthy. Trump’s vicious 2017 tax cuts for the rich ensure that there will be even less money to fund the services working people need — like education, health care, and public transit. Socialists believe we need to project our local struggles onto the national stage and demand that the corporations and wealthy billionaires pay their fair share.

As we go to the picket lines, the federal government is shut down. Trump is holding federal agencies hostage until Congress approves $5 billion to build his racist border wall. His shutdown has thrown national parks, social security offices, and food inspection into disarray. But our public services should not suffer at the whim of millionaire bigots like Trump or billionaire charter barons like Eli Broad. Education, health, the parks, and our Social Security payments should be controlled by us, ordinary working people.

Building class power

We believe the teachers will win this battle against the district. When they do, there is still much left to fight for. The Trump regime locks children in cages, rules for the rich and promises to wreck the planet.

From the red state revolt to the blue state teachers’ strikes, from the “yellow vest” protests in France to the struggle in Palestine — we live in a world wracked by crisis.

As socialists we believe we need to build a radical alternative to the madness of capitalism. This fight begins in our workplaces and schools. We must build up the power to strike, march, and shut this rotten system down together.

What you can do

1. Join a picket-line | Socialists will be out on the picket lines this week with the LA teachers. We encourage every person who stands for fully funded public education to join us whenever and wherever they can.

2. Attend a citywide protest | Teachers will rally in Grand Park on Friday at 10 a.m. Join socialists and march together — we’ll meet by the restrooms in opposite City Hall.

3. Support Tacos for Teachers | Zingo Tacos and the LA Street Vendor Campaign will be feeding the struggle each day of the strike:

Friday breakfast @ Venice High
Friday breakfast @ Lincoln High
Friday lunch @ Franklin High
Friday dinner @ Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory

Visit bit.ly/tacos4teach to support the campaign and see the unfolding schedule.

4. Attend the solidarity panel | “Teachers on Strike and the Fight for Racial Justice” is on Friday, January 18 at 6 p.m., at Boyle Heights Arts Conservatory (2708 East Cesar E. Chavez Avenue). Speakers include: Gillian Russom, UTLA teacher activist, a rank-and-file educator from DSA, East Side Padres Contra la Privatizacion, Students Deserve, and Jesse Hagopian of Black Lives Matter in Schools

5. Share your support on social media | Using the hashtags:

#utlastrong
#strikeready
#redfored
#tacosforteachers

6. Join a socialist organization

The LA International Socialist Organization meets every Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Student Union building at Cal State Los Angeles

The LA chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America has meetings and new member meetings across Los Angeles County. To find a meeting near you, visit dsa-la.org/calendar.

E-mail alerts

Further Reading

Latest Stories

From the archives