LA teachers are on strike today, fighting against privatization, standardized tests, giant classes, and clawbacks of in-class teachers' aides.
The LA Unified School District — whose billionaire superintendent was installed thanks to oceans of dark money fronted by the charter school lobby — will respond by spending its $1.86 billion reserve on high-priced scabs.
Unlike last year's wave of #RedForEd teachers' strikes, LA teachers are striking against Democratic party operative and donors, who are part of the bipartisan move to privatize schools and gut public-sector unions.
The teachers will find natural allies in the parents: every parent knows the misery of trying to find somewhere to live near a "good school," and the way that new job opportunities and other reasons to move have to be weighed against the possibility that your kid will land in an underperforming, underfunded school. And even the winners in this game are losers: the "good schools" inevitably close their funding gaps with endless rounds of "fundraising" from parents.
And the alternatives are worse: publicly funded charter schools are beloved of evil billionaires, crooks and religious kooks, but they're really bad for kids.
Last year's wave of teachers' strikes never really ended: the LA teachers' strike is an example to working people everywhere, who've witnessed wage-stagnation, hyperinflation in housing and college costs, and the rise and rise of the super-rich.
Change is a scalloped growth curve: attention peaks, then drops off, but to a higher level than before. The next peak is higher, the next baseline is higher, too. This is the next peak, and there are plenty more waves behind it, ready to build on it.
At most times, in most places, workers feel powerless in the face of management. But when they organize to bring work itself to a halt, the balance of power fundamentally shifts. Suddenly the true importance of workers' labor is laid bare, and the powers-that-be have a crisis on their hands. Strikes transform ordinary working people with little wealth and political clout into a force to be reckoned with. And all that's necessary to tap into this game-changing, table-turning power is for workers to recognize the extraordinary value of their work, and organize with each other to withhold it.
Yet strike numbers have been declining for decades and it's not hard to figure out why. Fewer workers are represented by unions than at any point in the last 70 years, thanks largely to a ruthless corporate offensive against the labor movement and basic union rights, including the right to strike. Unfortunately, most union officials have responded by retreating into a self-defeating reliance on electing and lobbying mainstream Democrats, instead of building disruptive strikes.
The teachers' upsurge points the way forward for unions and the working class. But it will face new challenges in 2019. With the movement now spreading to the blue states, educators and their unions will no longer be primarily battling Republican politicians. To win in a city like Los Angeles means nothing less than taking on the Democratic party establishment. The corporate-funded drive to privatize LA's public schools is not led by acolytes of Donald Trump. To the contrary: Austin Beutner, the billionaire investment banker installed as superintendent by deep-pocketed backers of school privatization, is a proud liberal and a longtime funder of the Democratic party.
LA's teachers can teach the working class about the power of labor strikes
[Eric Blanc and Meagan Day/The Guardian]