Joining the Battle with UTLA

March 31, 2015
“We’re in the middle of a battle here,” began Alex Caputo-Pearl, the President of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to a group of a few dozen staff of America’s second-largest teachers union local.  “It’s going to get more intense. That’s why it’s so important that Wellstone’s here: we’ll win with concrete strategies for mapping out schools to support members as they step up and become leaders.” 
 
UTLA’s decision to spend two intense days with Wellstone didn’t happen at a point of relative calm. Instead, our work together happened during a time that will define the success of LA public schools for generations to come.  
 
Days earlier, 15,000 members and parents, supporters and students rallied in downtown LA. The lines were drawn between the union and the LA Schools administration for the latest contract dispute. LA educators were given yet another false choice: either smaller class sizes or the first meaningful raise in over 7 years.
 
The downtown rally was a big step in a series of escalating actions as UTLA fought for better public schools for the students of LA. And bringing in Wellstone was another important step. Because if you’re going to win better schools, and better working conditions for 35,000 members, the only way you’re going to do it is the Wellstone Way. 
 
UTLA’s position, that teachers deserve better pay and smaller class sizes, is by no means radical, yet the fight couldn’t be more intense with a school system stuck in a status quo that’s failing students and teachers alike. So Wellstone spent two days working with union staff and teacher members to empower leaders, build support, and win progress for a school district in desperate need of change. 
 
“From mapping out schools to understand networks of power, to making tough asks, being a powerful organizing union takes real skills building,” explains our Director of Impact Edith Sargon, who led the training, “But just as important is UTLA’s commitment and culture of being a members-first organization dedicated to lifting up their members, growing leaders, and winning better schools for LA students.” 
 
As they says on their website, the road ahead for UTLA and its members means a focus on organizing, “The first months of the campaign for ‘Schools LA Students Deserve are being dedicated to developing organizing structures that will allow us to build capacity and escalate our tactics.” So as long as the struggle lasts, Wellstone’s dedicated to standing with UTLA, side by side, as they fight for schools worthy of LA’s students, the Wellstone Way.