Will Los Angeles Teacher Strike Strengthen Public Unions Role in Policymaking?

It is not IPMA-HR’s place to speculate on trends in unionization or to predict policy outcomes. If an analysis recently posted to the Governing website is accurate, however, public sector HR managers should pay close attention to the conduct and resolution of the labor action initiated by the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) on Jan. 14. 2019.

Representing some 35,000 public school teachers and educational professionals in the second largest U.S. school district, UTLA is demanding raises, increases in per-pupil school funding and limits on charter schools. That last category of demands positions the union squarely in an ongoing policy debate, making the strike as much about politics as money.

With “the battle is being fought in a liberal, union-friendly city and state," in the Governing article notes, "the strike could influence how an increasingly progressive Democratic Party handles workforce and education issues in states and cities across the country.”

Teacher unions in Arizona, Oklahoma and West Virginia last year succeeded in securing increased pay and public school funding, but none of those labor actions aimed to charge overall approaches to K-12 education. The Los Angeles strike surfaces long-brewing tensions over charters, and the message is sure to resonate in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives and the Trump Administration.

The U.S. Department of Education under Betsy DeVos has prioritized funding and policies for charter schools and school voucher programs. The new House majority is much more favorable to traditional models of public education, and legislation friendly to employees and organized labor is already being proposed.