The Women’s Revolt Continues: Teachers’ Strikes Across the Nation

April 16, 2018
Sylvia Cabrera, AF3IRM Los Angeles Co-Coordinator
[email protected]

AF3IRM Los Angeles stands with and joins the national uprising of educators fighting for fair compensation, safe schools, and quality public education for students and their families. We send our solidarity to the educators of West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Colorado, whose strikes are the latest iteration of the global women’s uprising. The educators on strike are ushering the new wave of women’s protest – a heightening in the face of global fascism and the outright violence, disrespect, and dehumanization of women by the current US administration. AF3IRM  Los Angeles and its members – teachers, social workers, and organizers – join the educator uprising as it escalates in Los Angeles.

The militancy displayed by educators across the country echoes the historic trend of women workers leading the way in societal transformation. Before women were even allowed to vote in this country, they were staging wildcat strikes and demanding dignity in the workplace. The battleground has since moved from factories to schools for the women on strike today. Education has always been a gendered occupation. In the US, over 75% of educators in the K-12 field are women, and thus have historically been underpaid and undervalued. The waves of teachers strikes, of women workers’ strikes, are bread and butter battles for healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, fair compensation, and money for classrooms – supplies, books, and safe facilities.

In Los Angeles, AF3IRM members are organizing for the escalation of the teachers’ union contract campaign and getting strike-ready. Contentious union negotiations continue for United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), and AF3IRM members, who are also UTLA teachers, are participating in the heightened organizing. Los Angeles Unified School District is sitting on a $1.7 billion unrestricted reserve, yet teachers spend at least $500 a year of their own salaries to ensure students have the supplies they need. The LAUSD School Board also recently gave themselves a 174% raise, while offering educators a mere 2% raise. Further, California ranks 48 of 50 in teacher-to-student ratios and union members are pushing for smaller class sizes. “I have to do more with less – I have to do this while also paying my own bills and caring for my two children. Something has to give and the District is pushing us to take action with their disrespect of educators. We will be responding accordingly,” said Cheryl Zarate, UTLA union Chapter Chair, middle school teacher, and AF3IRM LA member.

AF3IRM  Los Angeles recognizes that public education has also become a battleground against privatizers. The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen 287% corporate charter growth since 2008 – it has the highest concentration of charter schools in the country. This unregulated growth has taken place while $550 million dollars have been drained from LA public schools every year. Betsy DeVos, Eli Broad, the California Charter School Association and its funded elected officials Antonio Villaraigosa, and LA school board members Monica Garcia, Nick Melvoin, Ref Rodriguez, and Kelly Gonez are leading the privatization effort. Women teachers are responding in-kind by heightening organizing. Despite millions of dollars to bust their union drive, Alliance Educators, teachers at the biggest charter school chain in Los Angeles, are forming a union. “We are organizing for dignity in the workplace and for our students,” said Sylvia Cabrera, Alliance Special Education Teacher, Organizing Committee member, and Co-Coordinator of the AF3IRM  Los Angeles Chapter.

AF3IRM Los Angeles members are engaged in their union and have been organizing for the heightened campaign in LA. This Thursday, April 19, educators will be picketing at all the LAUSD union school sites from 7am to 8am to demand respect for themselves and for their students. These pickets will be followed by weekly faculty meeting boycotts, and a mass “All In for Dignity and Respect” rally at Grand Park on Thursday, May 24th from 4:00pm to 8:00pm.

AF3IRM LA members will be on all the picket lines and boycotts, in a show of solidarity with other striking teachers and to fight for our own justice. AF3IRM LA echoes the words of labor organizer and leader Lucy Parsons Gonzalez, “Strike not for a few cents more an hour, because the price of living will be raised faster still, but strike for all you earn, be content with nothing less.”