Johnson wins an eclectic array of support for school board seat
Yana Gracile | May 19, 2014
Among the seven candidates running for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat, Alex Johnson, a senior deputy for LA County Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas, is one of the most heavily endorsed candidates in the race.
His long list of supporters may appear impressive, perhaps due to his boss’ powerful connections. But a closer look reveals that some of his endorsements come groups that have no direct relation to LA Unified or public education.
One of the most unusual endorsements came from the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters (LALCV), which endorses candidates based on their interest and actions regarding a clean environment.
The group endorsed Johnson because its board members “were impressed with his excitement and interest in providing environmental leadership at LAUSD,” said Tom Eisenhauer, president of the League.
Johnson became the first candidate seeking office in a public school district that the League has endorsed in 15 years of endorsements. Eisenhauer said it was unusual but not unanticipated.
“Every election cycle the LALCV gets involved in places it hadn’t been before,” he said. “Every cycle, the bandwidth is different.”
He said all candidates were mailed questionnaires, and those judged to have the “best quality” of answers were interviewed.
While Johnson failed to win the endorsement of LA Unified’s biggest labor partners, including the teachers union, UTLA, and the principals union, AALA, he nonetheless got nods from an eclectic group of trade unions, including those representing engineers, probation officers, electrical workers, painters, plumbers and pipefitters.
While none of the candidates got the endorsement of the LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, which represents 600,000 workers in the Los Angeles area, local affiliates had the freedom to endorse any candidate they wanted.
Business manager Gary Cook of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 78 told LA School Report that after interviewing three candidates, the union decided that Johnson had the best ideas.
“His plan is much better for students and the district as a whole,” Cook said.
Cook said that the union, representing plumbers and trade workers who fabricate, install, and service piping systems, makes sure schools are built correctly by helping build, maintain and operate school facilities.
The union feels Johnson’s overall vision complements its goals and helps promote its mission.
Cook added that trades people are a vital component of LA Unified because “restrooms, cafeteria, heating, HVAC and others areas all work together.”
The United Long Term Care Workers Union, representing home care providers, is another group supporting Johnson.
The union said he is the only candidate who they feel can best represent the students in District 1, not only because he is a product of District 1, but also because he was able to overcome his family’s financial hardships to become a successful voice for his community.
“They provided ways to send this young man on to college and he continued. That gives opportunity and visibility to our young adults instead of incarceration,” Michele Reed, the Vice-President of ULTCW region 3, told LA School Report.
Reed said that she and other union members all have children or grandchildren who attend school in District 1 and so far, the education these students have been receiving is getting failing grade.
But she says Johnson can be the voice for change in District 1 because he understands the needs of low-income students and has a track record of working with young children.
“As home care providers,” she said, “we go out and support issues that pertain to our community. We’re voters.”
* Removes reference to AFSCME Local 658, a union representing U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center employees in Washington, D.C. Johnson’s campaign said including it had been a mistake. Adds decision by LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO to endorse none of the candidates.