Advocacy Member Engagement News

Two UTLA Strikes in Thirty Years; What’s Different This Time?

CTA Vice President Dr. Theresa Montaño shares her experiences in both 1989 and 2019 UTLA strikes

What’s different about United Teachers Los Angeles strike in 1989 in comparison to current walk-out-now in its fifth day? Catching up with Dr. Montaño at Eagle Rock High School’s picket line provided an opportunity to ask an educator who experienced both.

According to Montaño, health benefits, equitable pay, and shared decision-making were priority items; “In ’89, I was a newer teacher, and I was impressed by how organized and ready we were to go out on strike. Leadership did a great job preparing members- we knew what we were fighting for during the nine-day walk-out.”

CTA Vice President Dr. Theresa Montaño with a student supporter at Eagle Rock High School

Thirty years later, having spent the week in and around the 2019 UTLA job action drew a different response; “This strike is different”, Montaño explained. “From the beginning, it’s had a more inclusive feel because parents, teachers, and students are all confronting a common enemy in the school privatization movement- and they’ve gotten a taste of their collective power in doing so. Teachers were strongly united in ’89, but the community partnership was a fraction of what you see in the streets today.” Montaño also credited UTLA’s leadership team in keeping community needs at the forefront of their demands, with calls for more nurses, support staff, and smaller class sizes to improve the conditions of teaching and learning.

For Dr. Montaño, the week has been one of enthusiasm and excitement. Given her decades-long perspective in California’s public educational system, her response about the influence teachers are having in the ongoing strike is revealing; “After seeing tens of thousands come out in support of our public schools, I’ve never been prouder of my fellow educators”.

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