They didn’t write the lesson plan or instruct Cristopher Bautista’s ninth-grade English class. But members of United Teachers Los Angeles were a powerful presence in the classroom where he works at Oakland Technical High School.
UTLA had taken to the streets 370 miles south, striking for smaller classes, a living wage and more help for their mostly low-income students. Bautista was teaching “Cannery Row,” John Steinbeck’s classic tale of Central Coast haves and have-nots.
“I’ve been teaching about the [Los Angeles] strike to my kids,” Bautista said on Day 5 of the UTLA walkout, which ended last week with the union making incremental gains in wages, classroom sizes and support staff. Bautista sees thematic overlap between Steinbeck’s book and the L.A. work stoppage, which drew international attention. “It’s about class struggles, what people need to get by, low pay. There are parallels.”
The six-day UTLA labor action already has had an impact beyond Southern California, one that is only expected to grow. It has intensified a critical public conversation about how education is paid for, highlighted the effect that charter schools have had on struggling districts and likely will put pressure on Sacramento to funnel more funds to the state’s schools.
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