Los Angeles Teachers Win Big After Massive Strike

A statement from the Democratic Socialists Labor Commission (DSLC) about UTLA’s historic victory

On Tuesday, January 22, teachers, students, parents, and the working class of Los Angeles won a profound victory. After their organized and powerful week-long strike, the union that represents teachers and school personnel in Los Angeles, UTLA, ratified an agreement with the school district. The agreement is being hailed by the union as a total victory, with reductions of class sizes, increases in school services like nurses, counselors, and librarians, raises across the board, and limits to charter schools.

As DSA-LA and UTLA member Madee Weisner put it, “The strike brought our community of teachers, staff, and families closer together and helped me feel more grounded in my political motivations as an educator. I hope other unions are inspired to follow suit!” Fellow DSA-LA and UTLA member Mark Campbell added, “Spending six days on the picket line provided me with the opportunity to unite together with the teachers and other support staff that comprise the working family at my high school. The strike gave us a chance to become real people now to each other — not mere ideas, representations, or roles.”

Despite attacks from a neoliberal Democratic Party-controlled city administration and billionaire superintendent Austin Beutner attempting to push an austerity agenda of privatization and charterization, the LA teachers show us that when workers and communities organize together around a common struggle and common vision for the future, and STRIKE, we can win!

In addition to being rank and file union activists, DSA members led many efforts to support the strike, creating a model for our engagement in future struggles. DSA-LA made national news by establishing the “Tacos For Teachers” fundraiser along with comrades in the International Socialist Organization. Most notable however, was the mobilization effort DSA-LA undertook to bring hundreds of its members to the picket lines. In partnership with DSA Long Beach and local YDSA chapters, Democratic Socialists had a large presence at five major high schools throughout the city. When not walking the picket line, members spoke with parents dropping their children off about the importance of the strike, flyered cars, formed human chains with parents around high schools, and provided music to raise morale. This consistent presence on the line, rain or shine, helped develop strong relationships with high schools and the local community. Some DSA members have since been invited by teachers to speak about socialism and the importance of strike solidarity in their classrooms, while other teachers have offered to help create local YDSA chapters at their schools. On the ground strike solidarity, as our comrades in Los Angeles have shown, can be a powerful tool for building relationships and trust with local communities as well as grow our movement.

Nationally, the solidarity photos that poured in from DSA chapters and DSA members in their unions around the country showed the LA educators that they had a national movement behind their strike. The union even posted some of our DSA chapter solidarity photos directly from DSA accounts, so that any striking members who turned to the social media accounts for news and updates from the union saw that DSA had their back. Countless members donated to the UTLA strike fund and the DSLC fundraiser to send strike leaders and rank and file militants from around the country to LA. We successfully raised thousands of dollars and funded the airfare for 9 teacher union rank and file leaders from Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Virginia, Baltimore, and New Jersey. The connections formed between UTLA leaders and these teacher activists is helping further develop a national RedForEd movement that is already spreading  with additional upcoming strikes and actions. We now look to Oakland, Denver, and Virginia as the likely next sites of struggle.

The continuation and escalation of the first genuine strike wave in decades is guaranteed to provide unfathomable opportunities for our organization and our movement. DSA is being recognized as a genuine force in American politics and the US labor movement. We have a critical role in unifying the labor movement with the movement for democratic socialism, and our members’ contributions are what makes it so. Solidarity to the Los Angeles strikers, solidarity to educators of the RedForEd movement across the country, and solidarity to the entire working class. This is truly just the beginning, and we have a world to win.

Solidarity from the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission