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Westside Teachers Dial for Zimmer

Hillel Aron | March 5, 2013

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Grand View Elementary teacher Irene Perez making calls at Carrow’s

About 20 teachers sat down in the back room of a Carrow’s restaurant in Santa Monica last night making phone calls reminding registered voters to vote for UTLA-backed District 4 incumbent Steve Zimmer.

Volunteers were given cell phones, a list of phone numbers and were allowed to order a meal for up to $10 plus a drink (no alcohol though). The goal: call voters to remind them to vote.

“I wanted to see if you’ll join us in helping to elect Steve Zimmer tomorrow,” a tentative Grand View Elementary teacher Irene Perez said into the phone, as her son Kingston ate from a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

Westside teachers — both active and retired — have been phone banking for Zimmer nearly every night for the past two weeks, in places like Carrow’s or Fu’s Palace or a bar and grill in Playa Del Rey called The Outlaws.

While it’s low-tech compared to the Coalition for School Reform’s smartphone-based field campaign, gathering groups of teachers together like this is a tried and true way to get teachers and others to vote for union candidates in low-turnout elections.

Most of the people on the volunteers’ list had already told a UTLA volunteer that they planned on voting for Steve Zimmer. For those that hadn’t, the teachers read from a script, which according to election law must be posted on the City Ethics Commission website.

Cecilia Powell, a 4th grade teacher at Windsor Hills, had barely heard of Steve Zimmer — she kept wanting to call him Zimmerman. But, she said, “I really support the union.”

Other teachers, like Michael Giarin, a teacher at Daniel Webster Middle School, were alarmed at the prospect of Zimmer’s opponent, Kate Anderson. “It scares me that someone with no experience can come in and buy the election.”

Mike Dreebin, a retired teacher and former UTLA Vice President, said he knows both candidates and was generally complimentary of both of them. Anderson is his neighbor, and he actually volunteered for her failed State Assembly campaign. While he likes Anderson, he is suspicious of the efforts by the Coalition for School Reform on her behalf.

“I believe in conspiracies,” he said. ” I believe there is a right-wing conspiracy to privatize schools, to make them into factories that make a profit.”

“I want to help Zimmer beat this Kate Anderson lady,” Perez told LA School Report in between phone calls. Zimmer had helped Grand View fight charter school co-location, she said.

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