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Striking is not Antiquated: L.A. education workers prove UFT leadership wrong with 30% Salary Increases
Repost of the New Action blog at https://newaction.org/
Last week, we had the displeasure of hearing the party of our union leadership argue against members having the right to strike. In the land of pattern bargaining, striking is antiquated, said one. It’s white privilege, said another. We don’t need the right, because we’d strike anyways if things were ever actually bad said their caucus president. A few members additionally pointed to cities like LA and Chicago and said—they’re just striking for what we already have here in New York.
The timing couldn’t have been more ironic. For, but a few days later, highly diverse education workers in Los Angeles went on strike. And they didn’t go on strike to get what we already have in New York City. The City of Los Angeles offered them a better deal than the sub-inflation DC37 pattern that UFT leadership wants us to be stuck with. But, more importantly, the striking workers won. They’ll be getting 30% salary increases, among other perks.
Let’s look at some facts/analysis.
The workers who went on strike in Los Angeles are not ‘people of privilege.’ They are amongst the lowest paid public sector workers in the city, filling approximately the same positions as the lowest paid workers in DC37.
Times are rough in Los Angeles, but they’re rougher in New York. Over the last 12 months, when compared with Los Angeles, general inflation is higher by a full percentage point in New York. Nevertheless, L.A. workers agree, that times are bad enough to strike.
Cities like L.A. don’t just strike to get what we have in New York; they strike even when they’re given a better deal than us. Indeed, LA’s latest offer was about a 23% increase over 5 years with a 3% cash-in-hand bonus, a $20 minimum wage, and full healthcare benefits for part-time workers (4 hours a day or more). That’s about 7 percentage points higher than what DC37 was given (16.21%) and two dollars more in terms of a minimum wage ($18). But, Education Workers United was seeking 30% and an additional $2 an hour over the next few years, as well as more hours for their workers. They weren’t ‘settling for less in solidarity,’ as our unions are. Moreover, health insurance is already 100% premium free for L.A.’s striking workers. To my knowledge, union leadership there is not trying to organize for members to pay more for coverage or be switched to inferior plans, as our own union leadership is doing here.
Striking is clearly not antiquated. The strike in L.A. has ended after just a few days of workers organizing together on the picket line. And they won. Per CBS, “the agreement includes a 30% wage increase and a retroactive pay increase of between $4,000 and $8,000. The increase will raise the average annual salary of its workers from about $25,000 to $33,000.”
In conclusion, Los Angeles proves New York’s union leadership wrong. When we organize together, we can do better. But in the bizarro land of New York, where the union organizes only to get us thrown off our healthcare, while threatening lawsuits to real progressive organizers, we’re told that the only way to truly be ‘union proud’ is to ‘don’t worry, be happy.’ Under the leadership of Unity Caucus, the UFT has become ‘post-union.’ Let’s take a page from L.A. and start acting like a union again. That starts with at least working to win back the right to strike.