UTLA: Our Unity is Our Strength

UTLA: Our Unity is Our Strength
Jamie Garcia, Science Teacher at Alliance Judy I. Burton Technology Academy High School

This year marks my third as a science teacher with the Alliance and I feel so fortunate to have found a place for myself at Burton Tech in South Los Angeles. We uphold the highest standards for not only our students, but also for our teachers who dedicate their lives to improving the education our students receive. As an educator with the Alliance, it is my job not only to educate, but to advocate on behalf of my students. I want teachers to have a voice and enact changes that would benefit our students and therefore I am all for organizing our union with UTLA.

Forming a union with UTLA would first mean strength in numbers. Joining a union that has 32,000 educators who have the same interests in improving public education not only gives our union strength at Alliance, but also gives us strength as educators across our vast city. This unity became clear to me when I joined teachers at Youth Opportunities Unlimited Alternative High School on the October 6th Day of Action. I walked alongside traditional public school teachers into the community, educating voters on the importance of voting “Yes” on Prop 55, a proposition that will guarantee funding for K-12 education.

It was an honor to walk those streets alongside veteran teachers, some of whom have been in the classroom for 25+ years. I learned a great deal just from spending a few hours together – imagine what we could learn from and share with each other and what we can achieve by being in the same union. We benefitted from working with each other that day and will continue benefitting from each other.

It is often the case that teachers who are a part of UTLA are portrayed as being separate and in opposition to charter school teachers like us at the Alliance. This is not the case. Sure, we can find numerous ways to divide teachers, whether that be by location, content area, or grade level; however dividing teachers because of traditional public school and charter school affiliation is unwise. Being divided only diminishes our ability to achieve and win the improvements that we are organizing for in the first place. We serve the same communities, the same students, and have the same vested interests in bringing about an equitable, quality education for all students in Los Angeles. Our commonalities overshadow our differences.

Finally, being a part of UTLA would not only mean joining 32,000 educators across Los Angeles (including over 900 teachers at charter schools who are already a part of UTLA), but it would also mean automatically becoming part of the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT). Joining these groups makes sense as educators in Los Angeles and makes our voices stronger.

Our unity is our strength and together across Alliance and with UTLA members, we will improve and further advance the education of students across the Alliance.