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First day of ground-shaking UTLA strike

By Sol Márquez

Striking UTLA members and supporters at City Hall.

Los Angeles, CA – At 6 a.m., January 14, over 50 teachers, students, parents and supporters joined the picket line at Breed Street Elementary. Breed Street Elementary, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, is under attack by the mega-charter corporation Kipp Charter. Kipp Charter is trying to build a new charter school only one block away from Breed Street.

Pouring rain and wind didn't seem to bother the angry and determined group. Centro CSO activists joined the teachers, chanting and helping to stop cars trying to enter school.

Chanting, “Austin Beutner, you can't hide! We can see your greedy side!” “What do we want! Fair contract! When do we want it? Now!” and “Whose schools? Our schools! What kind of schools? Public schools!” Two picket lines blocked both entrances at Breed Street Elementary.

“We arrived at 5 a.m.,” says Letty Navarrette, a Breed Street Elementary public-school teacher for over 22 years. “We arrived that early hoping to block the principal and support staff from entering. Unfortunately, they beat us, so tomorrow we plan on starting the picket line even earlier!”

Breed Street Elementary is co-located with Extera, another charter school corporation, so two different picket lines were held. On the Breed Street side, a standoff between an Extera bus carrying food and UTLA picketers resulted in the Los Angeles Police Department attempting to escort the bus into the school. The picket line did not break.

“On our side, the Chicago Street side, we had our standoff with two parents in two vehicles,” says Jaime Bermudez (known by his students as Mr. B), a teacher at Breed Street Elementary for 29 years. “We held our picket line for 20 minutes! Extera sent a charter goon to try to get us to move. We didn’t, and we won't!”

The picket at Breed Street will continue for the duration of the strike, beginning from 7 a.m. and ending at 9 a.m. Centro CSO will continue joining teachers at Breed Street Elementary.

After the picket line in the morning, UTLA teachers from around the district met at Grand Park for a large rally and march. They demonstrated an unwavering determination to strike for a better union contract and better schools in Los Angeles. Almost 30,000 people joined the rally. They marched through pouring cold rain through downtown Los Angeles. For over a mile the huge crowd stomped through puddles and potholes until the massive crowd finished at Beaudry Street – at the LAUSD headquarters. There thousands protested the LAUSD and new superintendent Austin Beutner for the attacks on public education.

Superintendent Beutner and school board members like Monica Garcia are backed by charter school corporations and facilitating the privatization efforts of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Teachers chanting, “Down with privatization! Up with public education!” vowed to continue with the strike, rain or shine. Among their demands are fully-funded and staffed public schools with lower class sizes, ahalt to growth of charter schools, less testing and more staffing of counselors, librarians, nurses and teachers, and fair wages.

In places like Boyle Heights and East LA, the demands include a defense of public education. In the last few years, charters have increased by 25%. Scrutinizing charter growth in other cities like New Orleans – which recently announced that it no longer has any public schools, only private and charter schools – UTLA is demanding a cap on charters.

In Boyle Heights, there is a fight against KIPP Promesa Charter opening a new school that will massively disrupt the students and teachers at schools like Breed Street, 2nd Street and Soto Street Elementary. Centro CSO will continue to picket with Breed Street Elementary.

Support the UTLA strike! Support public education!

You can help protect public education in LA donating to the lawsuit against the KIPP here:

CSO leader Carlos Montes with UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl.

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