The six-day strike by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) in January 2019 took the “RedForEd” teacher protest movement to a new level. Early RedForEd walk-outs took place in 2018 in predominantly Republican states—Arizona, West Virginia, Oklahoma—signaling a new willingness by educators to fight back against ongoing financial and political attacks on their public schools.
The Los Angeles strike was the first to take place in a deeply “blue” state. It mobilized tens of thousands of Angelenos—parents, students, and community members as well as teachers—over a period of six rainy days, to express their unambiguous commitment to public education in their city. The LA strike resulted in a stunning array of substantive victories well beyond the scope of a typical labor agreement. The daily experience of LA teachers and students will change for the better because of the strike. But the ramifications of the strike go much further: it has helped to shift the narrative on public education in the state of California and nationally.
Parents, students, and teachers who were involved in the strike talk about it in almost mythic terms. But the story of the strike is about a multi-year, multi-faceted campaign led by a bold labor/community alliance called Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles (ROSLA).
This case study examines how the teachers union and their partners in ROSLA built and carried out a two-year campaign that lifted a vision of “the schools all our students deserve” into the public consciousness; how parent, student, and teacher leaders were trained and supported as they took their fight to some of LA’s most powerful political players—and won.