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‘Why Are We Rushing the Vote?’ ~ Teachers Grumble But Overwhelmingly Approve Deal to End Strike

Los Angeles, CA – Jan. 18: UTLA Teachers Stike Rally on January 18, 2019. (Brian Feinzimer)

[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]eachers left a UTLA West Area meeting on Tuesday afternoon angry but anyways leaning toward voting to approve a tentative agreement struck between the union representing thousands of educators and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

“Don’t we have 24 hours to vote on this?!” one teacher yelled out during the briefing.

“Why are we rushing the vote?” said another.

“This is a rushed contract!” a third person yelled out.

The teachers, many of them union chapter chairs at individual school sites across the city’s Westside, told L.A. Taco they felt rushed to approve the agreement. They had gathered at Alexander Hamilton High School in the neighborhood of Castle Heights to get a briefing on the agreement’s specifics.

Here they are:

Erika Jones Crawford, UTLA's West Area chair, responded to the barrage of questions. “Sometimes we have to do things in a way to get folks into the building despite you wanting to be still out on the street,” Crawford hollered back. “There is a whole ton of pressure to get us back into the building. So, we’ll say that.”

“This is a little bit different than anything else we have done before, because we haven’t been on strike for 30 years,” she added.

Photo by Brian Feinzimer.

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n spite of all of the grumbling, the vast majority of the 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles voted to approve the agreement Tuesday night, allowing them to go back into classrooms on Wednesday morning.

The count will continue tomorrow morning, but some 80 percent of tens of thousands of those already counted voted in favor of the agreement, according to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. It “effectively ends the strike,” he said during a press conference Tuesday night.

After 21 hours of nonstop negotiations, the L.A. Unified and its teachers union reached an agreement to settle a bitter labor dispute that launched the first teachers strike the city has seen in 30 years.

The district was desperate to get teachers — and the district’s 600,000 plus student body — back into classrooms. The first week of the strike cost the district more than $125 million. That's because school funding is based in part on daily attendance, and the number of students going to school plunged during the strike.

“Rank and file needed a day to process this and consider a counter offer,” said Soni Lloyd, a social studies teacher at Venice High School. “Maybe this was the best we could have gotten, but it is not right to rush the process at the very end.”

Lloyd said he voted no, but more than two thirds of Venice High teachers voted to approve the deal.

Outside the auditorium immediately after the meeting, some teachers said they didn’t like that the district had already sent emails to parents saying teachers will back in the classroom on Wednesday, with the presumption of a “yes” vote.

“I am just disappointed that we didn’t get a whole night to discuss and vote on the agreement,” said Kathleen Iannacone, a Hamilton High teacher, out on the steps in front of the auditorium. “Well, I am already in my 60s. My fight was for the new young teachers.”

RELATED: L.A. Taco Podcast: A Conversation About Teaching and Tacos With an Educator on the Picket Lines

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