UTLA’s own history lauds the nine-day strike that culminated in a “historic” three-year contract, with 8 percent wage increases each year. What seems to have fallen into the memory hole is that UTLA’s original demand was for 21 percent over two years, and the district’s last offer before the strike was for 21.5 percent over three years. Nevertheless, the strike burnished the reputation of then-UTLA President Wayne Johnson and launched him to the presidency of the California Teachers Association.
There are only two things that could head off a teacher strike. The first is that Caputo-Pearl’s master plan has already had more failures than successes. He planned to win a majority on the LAUSD school board in 2017. He wanted to coordinate bargaining and labor actions with other teacher union locals in California whose contracts were expiring at the same time. He wanted to put a split-roll property tax initiative on the November 2018 ballot. None of those things came to pass, so perhaps he is also overestimating his members’ enthusiasm for a strike.
The other X-factor is the resignation of LAUSD school board member Ref Rodriguez after pleading guilty to a felony count of conspiracy. That leaves the board deadlocked at 3-3 between union allies and opponents. Whoever fills Rodriguez’s seat may determine the outcome of UTLA contract negotiations, though it may not happen in time to stave off a strike.
With that in mind, we note that Huntington Park councilwoman Graciela Ortiz announced her candidacy for the seat over the weekend. As recently as 2016, Ortiz was a UTLA member, received the union’s gold community award, and spearheaded a charter school moratorium in Huntington Park.
If Ortiz or another candidate gives the union a majority on the board, UTLA could see its contract demands met, but I think the union would rather have the strike first. Tactically, the best time to launch a job action is right after payday, which for most Los Angeles teachers will be Friday, Oct. 5. If I were a Los Angeles public school parent, I would start researching alternative accommodations for my kids for the week of Oct. 8.