Lessons From A “Successful” Teacher Strike

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A big believer in the power of communication. If not writing, out exploring the city.

If someone fights for you, is it not natural that you feel inclined to help them? During the teacher strike in January of 2019 in Los Angeles, people forget that students were among those that numbered over 30,000. The students of the Los Angeles Unified School District recognized that this was a battle over the quality of their education, and many pitched in through whatever means they could.

At the time, it appeared as though it was a victory for everyone involved by the end of the strike. The district could begin to recover from the loss in attendance of hundreds of thousands of students, the teachers had several demands met, and the students of LAUSD could begin to come to class once more. The fight had been fought, and ultimately won.

This war had however just begun, and this was only the beginning in a period of several teacher unions across the country beginning to make demands of their own. As one of the more successful negotiations during this era, it is interesting to see how it aged in nearly a year since its inception.

As a student who supported the teachers, it is painful to say, but I cannot say for certain that the process was worth it. It truly was a symbolic victory, defeating the second-largest school district in the nation, but the literal costs were high. Tens of millions of dollars have been lost, and as such I expected the outcome to be worth the loss.

What I received instead was a crash course in the failure of modern unions. Simply put, the era of the ’70s is no more. The costs are far too great for those who create unions to put significant harm on powerful bodies that may have prepared for such an event. Living in a place such as Los Angeles makes the cost of maintaining such an effort that much more difficult. Even though rising costs were a significant part of the agreement, it was also a sign of its downfall. LAUSD managed to live out the media storm, the lack of cash, and the public opinion for the very fact that they were just that powerful. It had giant coffers that were the very source of contention for more funds, to be used against the teachers and students that wanted them.

This fight was ultimately something much more than expected for union members. Perhaps that is why the results were what they were. For all the clamor that went around as the strikes ended, I can’t see anything worthy of note that came from it. The strike was meant for the sake of students as well, but the commitments to classroom facilities by LAUSD is lacking. Overcrowding is still a constant concern, and facilities are not as capable as promised during the strikes. I do not blame the teachers, but it certainly does feel as though nothing was gained in the workplace.

Strikes are still important things that even the biggest corporations fear, but they are ultimately growing weaker by the day. In a time where such activities are needed more than ever to make up for the lack of social justice being carried out by local and federal governments, it is worrying that people trying to make a difference are having a steeper mountain to climb. People are all equal, and such protests have been the driving force for many of the needed labor rights today. Rather than taking this as a negative front, it is a sign that there is still a lot of work to do. Not only in the places of employment, but also in the offices of your local congress members.

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It’s time we see this as more than just a conflict between two differing parties. When it comes to public education, public officials have the power to be the judge and jury. If disagreements can’t be settled in equal footing, a third party is necessary. Choosing sides can often be ruinous for politicians, but that isn’t an excuse for them to be a nonfactor in the debates lighting up the nation. Rather than being a force to end them as quickly as possible, we need them to figure that do as their hearts tell them to. Through legislation to public calls to action, they have a wide range of political weaponry to make a permanent difference.

Never have we been in a nation that shuns change, so why start now? Tomorrow can be today, and all we need is the support of those who have the power to make it so.