The Strike

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The Strike

Mr. Zimmerman leads a chant as teachers go on strike for their students.

Mr. Zimmerman leads a chant as teachers go on strike for their students.

Photo Courtesy David D'Lugo

Mr. Zimmerman leads a chant as teachers go on strike for their students.

Photo Courtesy David D'Lugo

Photo Courtesy David D'Lugo

Mr. Zimmerman leads a chant as teachers go on strike for their students.

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Monday, January 14 was a historic day for LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) teachers as they went on strike for the first time in 30 years. Teachers were hoping to win smaller classroom sizes, more counselors, more nurses, a pay raise, and much more. A tentative agreement between UTLA ( United Teachers of Los Angeles ) and LAUSD was reached after six days of striking, and teachers returned to the classroom on Wednesday, January 23.

While on strike, teachers picketed outside of their school sites each morning, attended rallies in various locations around the city, and returned to their school sites for more picketing when the school day. Teachers chanted phrases and marched with signs despite the pouring rain, showing their dedication to their students. Teachers agreed that being on strike helped them to feel more connected with each other and unified for the cause.

Above all, teachers agreed that their main reason for going on strike was for students. Although MACHS has access to a nurse everyday, not all schools are that lucky. “There’s nurses that have to cover four schools in one week,” explained Nurse Frederick Oporto. “Just imagine how they feel, traveling all over the district,” he said. Many of the students know the importance of having medical aid available at all times, especially when a lot of the students play sports. Though Mr. Oporto only has to work at one location, he is responsible for serving both MACHS and Synergy Quantum, which can be a challenging balance at times. “Most of the time I miss my lunch,” he said. “I don’t complain about that because it’s part of the job to help the students.”

A small teacher pay raise was part of the strike demands. Before the strike, many teachers relied on two jobs to keep their lives steady. English and ELD teacher Ms. Burton is one of those teachers. Before the strike, she was forced to supplement her income by driving for Uber and picking up other occasional odd jobs. “It’s hard to dedicate your time to planning and all of that when you also have to worry about making ends meet,” Burton said.   

In addition to fighting for fairer wages, teachers also fought against the movement toward privatized education. Mr. Gochez, a history and cultural studies teacher at MACHS and local social justice advocate, felt that one of the strike mantras perfectly summed up his motivation to go on strike: “When public education is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!”

While teachers were picketing outside the school, students were sent to designated areas for supervision including the MPR, the gym, and the library. Some students opted not to attend school during the strike. “ I didn’t want to go to school because I wanted to support the teachers,’’ stated 10th grader Jennie De La Rosa.

Some students also took part in the strike, demonstrating that they really wanted a change in our schools. Jesus Núñez, an 11th grade student at MACHS, stated: “I feel like the strike was a helpful thing to most schools from the district. The reason why I believe so is because it is a secured contract with increased payment, smaller class sizes and the employment of additional staff.” Jesus went to the first day of the strike on January 14. “We went on a school bus to downtown [LA] and were striking in the rain.” Though Jesus enjoyed participating in the strike, coming back to school and getting back into the swing of things wasn’t easy. “The strike affected me in many ways… it was [stressful] to catch up on everything.” He didn’t attend any school days during the strike.

Tenth grader Estefany Meza agreed that the transition back to school from the strike was a challenge: “It affected me because throughout the six days I didn’t learn anything. When we came back to school we were behind with the lessons.”  Meza also wished she had joined teachers on the picket lines: “If there were to be another strike in the future, I wouldn’t come to school at all this time. And I would join UTLA by protesting with them until we get what we deserve,” she said. The teacher strike helped a lot of students become aware of the fact that they too can help make a difference, no matter their age, and that standing up for what they believe in can actually lead to change.

During the strike, LAUSD lost a total of $125.1 million, approximately $25 million per day. Teachers hoped that losing this amount of money would show LAUSD how serious they were, and would pressure them to make changes quickly. “[I was] pretty offended that they are willing to lose $25 million dollars a day, that should be going to the students,” said History teacher Mr. Medina.  Fellow history teacher Mr. Hirshberg agreed, adding: “Yeah, they know that they have the money there with them, and they’re just not interested in putting the money where it needs to be: with the students.”

When the final agreement was settled on January 22, 2019, it stated that the teachers would come back to work the next day with a 3% raise retroactive to the Fall semester of 2018. English and math class sizes would be reduced by 7 students immediately and the maximum amount of students per class would be 39 students rather than 50. With the agreement LAUSD schools also received full-time nurses and more librarians. This means that over 150 full time nurses, 41 librarians, and 17 additional full time counselors needed to be hired.

After the tentative agreement was proposed, UTLA members voted to ratify the agreement. Teachers were given only a few hours to read the agreement before they had to cast their votes. The vote passed with 81% of UTLA teachers in favor of the agreement. If the agreement had not passed, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner would have had to return to the bargaining table. Though the agreement passed with a vast majority vote, not all teachers felt completely satisfied with the results or the voting process. “I felt like we were pressured to vote, I felt rushed,” said Ms. Acosta, a Special Education teacher at MACHS, of the agreement. “[I was] a little disappointed about the process to sign the agreement, but happy to come back,” said Acosta.

Despite hesitations regarding the agreement, overall teachers hope that the agreement will benefit all teachers, students, and schools. Teachers will have an easier time teaching and students will have an easier time learning. UTLA’s victory motivated other school districts to go on strike, including Oakland, which won its own strike on March 3 after 7 days.

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Ho marches in front of MACHS in the rain, showing her support to the students.

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Mr. Walker teaches Mr. Gossett’s son Xavier how to use a noisemaker.

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Mr. Gochez

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Acosta

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Doswell serving as a symbol of strength throughout the strike.

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Mr. Medina

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Naponelli

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Escolero

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Doswell

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Mr. Gossett’s son, Xavier, leads teachers and students in chants for the strike.

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo
Ms. Davidson

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo

Photo Courtesy David D’Lugo