Los Angeles Teachers’ Struggle

ICT Introduction

The global drive against the world working class in the name of budget rectitude (as demanded by the same “markets” that brought the huge state debts in the first place) has taken a slightly different form in the US since the Federal Government has been baling out the bankers whilst local states have been cutting their spending. Some like California (which by GDP would be in the world’s top eight producers in its own right) lost so much in the sub-prime crash which added to an already deep debt crisis that its state bonds have been downgraded to either junk status or are worth less than those of Kazakhstan. Indeed the chief difference between Greece and California is that it is in the USA and not the Eurozone. Not only is the US Federal Government in a position to print money at will because the dollar is the world’s reserve currency (as we have written many times*1*) but ever since the 1840s when 18 US states went bankrupt the unspoken principle is that the Fed will redistribute half a trillion dollars a year to the states to iron out budget problems. This however does not mean that the crisis is any easier for workers in the States.

The working class throughout the US has already been devastated by homelessness and unemployment.

But with a budget deficit of some $26 billion California has taken to all kinds of stunts to save money.

It did try to get a loan from banks like Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase (which each got $25 billion in bailout money from the taxpayers) and Bank of America (which got $15 billion) but all have refused California’s request for a loan to tide it over until October.

And of course these are the very same banks which are putting pressure on California to make the working class pay. Thus massive layoffs are in force and many state workers have had their pay reduced to the legal minimum by Governor Schwarzenegger (a cut of 14% even for the lowest paid).

Amongst all these cuts Los Angeles Unified School District teachers are facing the chopping block of capitalist austerity. Like public school teachers across the US and like workers everywhere they face a common assault on their living standards and livelihoods. The present situation begs a working class response that is not bound in a slavish and subservient role to unions and the ruling capitalist parties.

Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, continued where the previous regime left off on education policy by attacking teachers. When the school district of River Falls, Connecticut laid off its public school teachers so they could rehire them back with lower wages and benefits, the Obama administration applauded. The political eunuchs who support the current ruling party are profoundly silent on this not-so-progressive assault on the education of the working class. The consensus of the ruling parties is that education itself, that students and teachers both can be measured according to sets of scores on tests, as if everything that goes on in a classroom can be measured in true bourgeois empiricist fashion with a nice clear set of balance sheet numbers.

Teachers unions across the country have benefitted from the privatization schemes in the creation of charter schools.

The UTLA, United Teachers Los Angeles, agreed to the recent contract, which imposed lay-off days, called ‘furlough days’ on teachers. Last February the UTLA union was given an administrative role by the Los Angeles School Board in 22 schools in LAUSD schools. On the national level unions have been complicit in this attack on schoolteachers, as surely as the United Auto Workers union was complicit in the decimation of workers livelihoods in the auto industry. Teachers’ union officials stand to profit directly from the privatization of public schools. The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are both strong supporters of the administration and policies it carries out, precisely because they have their own stakes in this restructuring of public education.

Against this we have the LAUSD substitute teachers putting forward their own initiative apart from unions and capitalist political parties. This is a positive move and it is hoped that teachers everywhere start making their own such initiatives against this attack on public education, on teachers and working class students. The leaflet which follows was issued by them for a US Labor Day demonstration and sent to us by a comrade in Los Angeles. We offer it to readers without correction or comment.

ASm (Internationalist Workers’ Group)

Make the Bosses take the Losses!

Workers in many industries, in both the private and public sectors of capitalism, are being bullied and shoved around and many economically beaten black and blue by the demands of the bosses.

This is going on not just in California but all over the USA and all over the world.

Workers are in headlong retreat, taking one ‘sacrifice’ after another to fatten up the bosses’ sagging bottom lines. When this happens, it only whets the rulers appetites to push their political stooges, both Democrats and Republicans, to order up more cuts in health and education, more layoffs and cuts in basic human needs programs that barely keep workers afloat.

The workers reliance on the present unions to protect them are faced with betrayal after betrayal. The “collaboration” of the Union apparatuses with the owners and high management means that workers are going to get hurt more and more. The Unions claim to ‘mediate’ the price of wages and benefits but because they are tied to preserving the bosses and the wage slave system, they “negotiate” from the parameters set by profit rates and so the tendency is a steady driving down of the value of labor power.

This eventually leads Unions to outright treachery and unity with the bosses against their own dues payers. In the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) the union brass sabotaged a strike set for May 2009 to prevent layoffs and higher class sizes, etc. Then the UTLA leadership and the LAUSD Board of Education cut a dirty deal. A secret “memo of understanding” (MOU) that abrogated the Union contract language upholding substitute teacher seniority and giving the LA Unified School District a green light to layoff over 2,000 classroom teachers and make them substitutes with priority in the calling order.

Thus the Substitute’s livelihoods were thrown overboard. Many hundreds lost health benefits because they could no longer get enough work to meet the “100 day” rule’ to qualify for them.

Substitutes and classroom teacher allies launched a mini revolt and got part of the seniority back. They also tried to get the substitutes days worked dropped to 70 to help more substitutes keep their health benefits. As a result, the UTLA House of Representatives passed the 70 days motion that later was supposed to be renegotiated by UTLA and LAUSD. However, in Feb, 2010, the Union leaders suddenly “lost” this motion and then made sure it was circular filed. All the while claiming they would re-negotiate for it! This example of the venal and criminal behavior of Union bosses in bed with management and Democrat and GOP politicians is not unique. It has helped to destroy a US Labor movement and set-up the dues payers and their families for a steady loss of jobs and benefits, including the corporate robbery of pension plans as well.

WE can turn the tide, but mainly by our own new organizing work with our fellow workers and allies.

We need to break away from labor judases and their political parties like the Democrats/GOP that suck tens of millions of the Union PAC dollars and still scheme to attack the workers livelihoods and lives.

New worker groups in the ranks resisting cuts and layoffs must be formed to fight back because the exploiters will just rob us yet again and show us no mercy.

Substitutes Alternative Voice for Education (SAVE)
email: gorter5@sbcglobal.net, Sept 1, 2010, PO Box 57483 Los Angeles, CA 90057

(1) See, for example The End of the Paper Money Economy and Some Possible Consequences in Revolutionary Perspectives 49 but there are many more such references in our analysis of imperialism. For more on the US economy see Facing Up to the Capitalist Crisis in Revolutionary Perspectives 47.

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