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UTLA highlights contract demands on ‘Big Red Tuesday’

Craig Clough | September 30, 2014

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Big Red Tuesday UTLA

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl

To commemorate “Big Red Tuesday,” United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl used a sidewalk press conference at Thomas Starr King Middle School this morning to outline yet again the union’s contract demands from LA Unified.

UTLA encouraged teachers and supporters all around the district to wear red to campuses, and as he spoke, Caputo-Pearl was flanked by several dozen supporters wearing red clothing, including UTLA-issued garb, sweaters, button-down shirts and even an Anaheim Angels T-shirt. (See the embedded video below for highlights form the press conference.)

“All across the city today, our educators from Chatsworth to the harbor, from the beach to east LA, are in red in a show of unity behind the demands of the Schools LA Students Deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said.

Before turning the podium over to other speakers, Caputo-Pearl outlined the key items the union is seeking in a new contract and in its Schools LA Students Deserve campaign, which includes lower class sizes, more support staff like nurses and librarians and a pay increase for teachers. In his recent State of the Union speech, Caputo-Pearl said “Big Red Tuesday” would be the first of union actions meant to put pressure on the district and Superintendent John Deasy as the union looks to project unity during contract negotiations.

Caputo-Pearl then launched into some familiar attacks on Deasy in regard to the policies of teacher jail, the suspended iPad program, the troubled rollout of MiSiS and the district’s offer of a 2 percent raise for teachers in their new contract. The union is asking for a 17.6 percent raise.

Caputo-Pearl insisted it was was a coincidence that the LA Unified School Board is meeting today to determine what criteria to consider when Deasy comes up for his annual performance review in three weeks. An unsatisfactory review could end Deasy’s tenure, and Caputo-Pearl repeated the ambiguous call for the board to hold the superintendent  “accountable” for his actions.

Two teachers from Thomas Starr King also spoke at the press conference.

“By treating and training and paying us like the professionals that we are, and providing our classrooms with the resources we need, the teachers of Los Angeles will be able to continue to step up to make sure our students have the ability to be global citizens of the 21st century,” said Wil Page, who is a UTLA chapter chair and 6th grade teacher.

Holding back tears, science teacher Linda Howard said, “I love my school. I love my students. I have to look into their eyes everyday and I have to tell them why we can’t do a project, why we can’t do one thing or another. Because, there’s nothing here to support us.”

Rounding out the speakers was Tomas O’Grady, a parent at King who is running for LA City Council in District 4.

“I’m just speaking as one parent. I really think we ought to reward our teachers appropriately for the kind of work they put in the last five years, even when the leaders of this district have been bickering,” said O’Grady, who curiously was not dressed in red like the rest of the union supporters.

After the press conference, several dozens teachers appeared from around the corner and held a short march into the school while chanting and cheering.

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