By Alexeyia Morina
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has struck a deal with Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) after a six-day strike. This deal has only continued the pattern of asking for bread crumbs while acting like they’ve seized a bakery.
As previously reported, the union’s original demands were for a 6.5% pay increase, smaller class sizes, less testing, new hires of librarians, counselors and nurses and a moratorium on new charters. Many of these demands were more or less met. The union won a 6% salary increase for teachers, a full-time nurse in every school by the 2020-2021 school year, class size reductions of 4 students by the 2021-2022 school year, additional counselors and librarians in schools, and more “community schools.”
While UTLA may paint this settlement a victory, politically, it is a loss for the masses. In effect, these gains serve the interests of the ruling class much more than those of the working class. This “win” has placed more false hopes in union leadership, which resigns itself to being subservient to its oppressors. Bourgeois union leadership will never dare to struggle for power – in fact, they have a vested interest in keeping power out of the hands of the masses they claim to represent.
It is only a matter of time before the school district reels these accommodations back. UTLA’s track record shows that none of these strikes have had any lasting effects – the material benefits have always been temporary.
Though liberals and social fascists tried to make this strike sound like the pinnacle of working-class organization, the masses within the strike were still generally disorganized. Union leadership shot for low-hanging fruit and settled quickly. The brevity and non-confrontational nature of the strike left the masses wondering what could have happened had it continued and actually posed a serious threat to class enemies.
Strikes remain one of the strongest weapons in the arsenal of the working class, but in the hands of unions like UTLA they amount to only a fraction of their true potential. This case illustrates that the question of leadership is central in revolutionary organizing, and that the force generated by the large numbers seen in the UTLA strike can be snuffed out quickly if left to the devices of reformist politics.