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Caputo-Pearl asks energetic UTLA rally: ‘Are you ready for a fight?’

Craig Clough | November 21, 2014

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The message was clear from United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl as he spoke to hundreds of energetic, amped-up supporters yesterday: If teachers are going to get the raise and other concessions they are demanding from LA Unified in a new contract, it is going to be a fight.

“Now folks, we’ve got to fight for our next victory, and that is to win our contract demands in the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign. And let’s be really clear, folks, that is going to be a fight,” Caputo-Pearl told the crowd.

The teachers union staged five simultaneous rallies around Los Angeles yesterday, including at James Monroe High School in North Hills, in the latest and most significant of the UTLA leadership’s “escalating actions” as it looks to put pressure on the district at the negotiating table. That pressure has included hints at a strike, and the sight of hundreds of teachers dressed in red marching outside a school offered a preview of what that might look like.

The union’s contract demands are outlined in the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign, which includes teacher raises, lower class sizes and an end to “teacher jail.”

Hundreds of teachers turned out at Monroe as they marched up and down Haskell Avenue and Nordoff Street while many drivers in cars passing by honked in support amid the sounds of beating drums, whistles, claps and chants that filled the air. Some UTLA members held signs and flags, including one that provocatively read, “Eight years a slave,” referring to amount of time LA Unified teachers have gone without a raise.

In his speech to the crowd after the march, Caputo-Pearl highlighted the lack of significant progress that has marked the union’s recent negotiations with the district. On the issue of pay, UTLA is asking for a 10 percent raise while the district is offering two percent.

“When we’ve put our proposals around creating safe schools for educators, safe schools for students, clean schools, well-staffed schools, and when the district still hasn’t responded, that means it’s going to take a fight. Are you ready for that fight?” Caputo-Pearl said.

The union president also offered his first public criticism of interim Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who replaced former Superintendent John Deasy last month following his resignation. Caputo-Pearl had been publicly bashing Deasy for months.

“Even though John Deasy is gone, when Ray Cortines is sticking with John Deasy’s two percent [raise] offer, that means it’s going to be a fight. Are we ready for that fight?” Caputo-Pearl said.

In a reversal of the diplomatic, subdued statements he made at a press conference the day Deasy resigned, when he said that Deasy’s leaving “is not a victory for UTLA” and deflected any union credit for his resignation, Caputo-Pearl told the crowd during his opening statements that “getting rid of John Deasy was a huge victory.”

The rally featured several other speakers, including Arminta Elementary School teacher Debbie Schneider, who focused on large class size in her remarks.

“At my school we have kindergarten classes with 27 students and fifth grade classes with 30 students. We even have a special ed class with 18 students,” Schneider said.

Click on the video or here to see highlights of the rally.

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