This commentary is running in the LA Sentinel on Labor Day weekend.
It’s always a good time to be a union member, but this year feels more powerful than usual.
As Labor Day parades and barbecues bring the glorious Hot Labor Summer to a close, we can finally catch our collective breath after what’s been a mighty year for workers. Here in Los Angeles, it seems like everywhere you look, there are workers on strike together – from actors and writers to the people who take care of visitors in our city’s hotels.
This came on the heels of mighty educator activism in the Spring. We saw teachers in Oakland go on strike for seven days to win common good resources and services for students and families, while the combined power of United Teachers Los Angeles and SEIU Local 99 during a three-day strike by LAUSD’s lowest-paid workers showed how much we can accomplish when we rise together in solidarity and fight side-by-side for better. The Power of Us is real.
The belief that we are stronger together also guides our historic efforts to create Community Schools. Community Schools ensure that curriculum and support programs are built around the needs of our students and their families. This transformative approach lifts the voices of families, educators and community, creating structures to guide shared decision-making, so that our schools are a true expression of the hopes and dreams of our vibrant neighborhoods.
This Community Schools movement was strengthened from victories won in the 2019 UTLA strike. With the efforts of local unions, community groups, and parents working together, along with a historic $4.1 billion commitment from Governor Newsom, Community Schools are now spreading across the state to benefit students in every corner of California. It’s a brilliant example of how our local struggles can blossom into helping people across our state and even our nation.
This year, UTLA educators won significant support for Black students, negotiating increased support for the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) and additional resources into our contract. The BSAP addresses the need for culturally responsive curriculum and instruction and provides increased staffing support to address the academic and social-emotional needs of Black students.
Strong unions mean strong communities, and this Labor Day let us recommit to building together and organizing for better – to create the change our children deserve.
Cecily Myart-Cruz is president of the 35,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles. David B. Goldberg is president of the 310,000-member California Teachers Association. Both are Los Angeles Unified School District educators and proud parents of LAUSD students.