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Antonucci: UTLA line of succession becomes a circle as officers look to swap positions in 2020 vote

Mike Antonucci | July 31, 2019

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

Alex Caputo-Pearl is approaching the end of his tenure as president of United Teachers Los Angeles. He fulfilled his dream of leading the largest teacher strike the state had seen in 30 years, but he didn’t quite “create a state crisis” that would lead to dramatic funding increases.

So what’s next for Caputo-Pearl? Wayne Johnson, the UTLA president who led the teacher strike in 1989, moved on to become vice president and then president of the California Teachers Association. In fact, it is quite the standard practice among National Education Association affiliates to see union officers climb the ladder one rung at a time. Lily Eskelsen García, president of NEA, was vice president and secretary-treasurer first, as was her predecessor. She will likely be succeeded next year by her vice president, who was previously secretary-treasurer.

But these are unusual times in California. When CTA President Eric Heins was term-limited out this year (after previously serving as vice president), it was widely assumed he would be succeeded by his vice president, Theresa Montaño. But in a surprise move, Heins endorsed Toby Boyd, who defeated Montaño.

I fully expected Caputo-Pearl to follow the traditional path to state and national office, endorsing an heir apparent at UTLA as he left. But he threw a curveball.

Last week, Union Power, the internal caucus that holds power within UTLA, announced its slate of candidates for 2020. Cecily Myart-Cruz, one of UTLA’s vice presidents, will run for president. Caputo-Pearl will run for Myart-Cruz’s VP slot, essentially swapping positions with her.

The UTLA constitution only limits officers from serving consecutive terms in the same office, leaving the door open for Caputo-Pearl to run for UTLA president again in 2023 or 2026, should he so desire.

I have seen this sort of rotation before only in small affiliates, where there are a limited number of volunteers for union office and the job is not very attractive. This is the first time I have seen it tried in a major local teachers union.

It doesn’t require extensive analysis to conclude that continuity is the aim of UTLA’s powers-that-be. There will be contract reopeners, the 2020 elections with a union-sponsored split-roll property tax initiative on the ballot and four school board seats to be contested. Los Angeles can expect more of the same from UTLA for the foreseeable future.

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