If the first day of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) strike was dramatic, then the second truly showed the strength of the union and its supporters.
UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, speaking to union members, reported that 100 percent strike participation by schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the country’s second largest, continued on Jan. 15.
Some 30,000 members were out on strike, he said, joined by thousands of parents, and community and labor allies. “Our picket lines grew on the second day,” Caputo-Pearl explained.
Also, for the second day in a row, more than 50,000 people rallied in downtown Los Angeles. This time their target was the headquarters of the California Charter Schools Association, which UTLA calls “a corporate lobby group powered by millions in donations from wealthy privatizers like Eli Broad so they can buy school boards and push the corporate takeover of schools.”
A new front opened in the struggle against school privatization on Tuesday as teachers and school workers went on strike at Accelerated Charter School in Los Angeles. It’s the first strike at a charter school in California, and only the second ever in the U.S. Workers there are “fighting for basic rights,” said Caputo-Pearl, adding, “We are reshaping the charter school debate.”
He also reported that a Loyola Marymount University poll found that nearly 80 percent of people living in Los Angeles County support the teachers — a phenomenal amount.
Scott Scheffer of Struggle-La Lucha gave an example of the widespread support. “When I was leaving from the morning picketing yesterday to go to my job, I was traveling north on the 110 Freeway. As I was approaching an overpass, I saw that there were a number of people, each holding up a sign on the overpass so that commuters could read them. Each one had one letter on it and it just said one word: TEACHERS.
“As I got closer, I could hear what must have been every single horn honking in all the northbound lanes, and when I looked in my rearview mirror, I saw people flashing their headlights,” Scheffer reported. “I can’t remember ever seeing this kind of public support for a strike, and it made me realize that this is more than a strike by the union. This is the communities defending their children’s education.”
LAUSD Superintendent “Austin Beutner is scrambling,” said Caputo-Pearl. “He did not expect the strength of the strike, of the community and the labor movement.” Beutner held a press conference where he had some parents make the ridiculous claim that union teachers don’t care about their students because they all send their own children to private schools.
Beutner and those behind him have also been spreading lies in the corporate media, claiming that the union refuses to negotiate, and spreading rumors that students who are absent during the strike will be penalized. Neither of these claims is true.
In response to the scare campaign, Unión del Barrio-Los Angeles has called a press conference for Friday, Jan. 18, at 6:30 a.m. at Maya Angelou High School, 300 E. 53 St. in South Central Los Angeles. There, parents and students will speak out in support of the teachers’ strike and explain to other parents and students that they will not get in trouble for being absent during the strike. Everyone is encouraged to attend and show their support.
Video en español: Ruben Tapia (KPFK) sobre huelga de maestros