Southern California Sinks in Sea of Setbacks–NorCal Begins Fightback

In southern California school districts in the past week, NEA locals have agreed to tentative agreements or ratified deals that heap past concession onto new ones — piling up the bottomless pit of proofs that concessions do not save jobs. Rather, like chumming sharks, employers only want more.

In San Diego, on June 18, 2012, a hurried deal conducted in secret was announced, a deal that is posed as a job saver. It could result in 14 furlough days, or, about an 8.24 percent pay cut, on top of concessions frozen over from the last contract. The bargaining team, put in place after one former SD Education Association president, Camille Zombro, was removed from office and the local executive director fired, promises that this contract is in place and cannot be violated–but the reason this contract exists is because the last one was just violated.

The deal, in typical divide-and-rule union boss fashion, offers teachers at the top of the scale a 1 percent pay raise, a transparent effort to split the bargaining unit and gain their votes. Indeed, that maneuver can serve as a lesson: multi-layered and leveled school worker contracts (which most teachers support and see as, at least, normal) are easily manipulated by both employers and union tops to a degree where even a minority of teachers, cleverly posed on the charts, can ratify an contract most people oppose.

In Los Angeles, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) negotiated ten furlough days. Forty-two percent of UTLA members voted “No,” an exceptionally high negative reaction for LA. In Sweetwater, a National Education Association local bought 14 furlough days.

All of these contracts are riddled with unusual “what ifs,” that is, what if the tax increase Governor Brown has scheduled for a fall vote passes, and what if not. Teacher union backing of the tax increase unites the school workers with their boss, Brown, and lines them up against the citizenry, their best potential allies. Each of the new agreements seek to lock in support for the Brown initiative, spelling out in harsh detail the horrors if it does not pass, the LA deal being the most precise.

That there is no reason to bargain prospectively (what if a genie appears?) seems not to have wafted into the minds of the teacher union bosses.

All the contracts accept, without question, the fictional financial emergency — nobody saying, “hey, wait, you gave $12.9 trillion to the banks and hundreds of billions to auto so aren’t four and a half million school workers and 50 million kids too many to fail?”

The presumption, that workers must bail out their bosses, is rooted in the mis-leaders who have an interest in helping to bake the crust of lies that replaces workers’ minds with the minds of their employers. How to spit the mass of people from traitors is one core issue at hand.

Or, perhaps they are joined at the hip with NEA’s $465-thousand-a-year president, Dennis Van Roekel, in being sure there is no struggle in the schools that would mar the campaign of the eloquent demagogue, Obama.

There is resistance in SoCal, but it is woefully constricted. A quasi-caucus, set up by SDEA’s Zombro, “The Breakfast Club,” opposed the coming union sellout long before it happened, and called the shots on what it would look like.

But Zombro herself was the mainstream union leader, not two years ago, who sold the last concessions package to the rank and file and the Breakfast Club opposition takes on the narrowest forms, never connecting the reasons concessions are demanded now–the whole picture of a capitalist and imperialist crisis where bailouts and perpetual war solidified the reality of a corporate state for example–with the obvious reality that one concession leads to another. Absent an analysis of the whole, attacking the parts just recreates the problems in somewhat new ways.

The Breakfast Club, however, managed to circulate the full tentative agreement before the union leadership did. They circulated a “summary.”

In Northern California, true to form, the resistance takes a clearer form–direct action. In Oakland, a sit in that has held for five days at the Lakeview elementary school, scheduled for closure, shows considerable promise, and tactical advice to striking teachers faced with potential scabs.

Clearly the center of school worker resistance is Chicago where the massive support for a strike gives heart to those who have fought to rescue education from the ruling classes for decades — a clear signal that people are awakening.

Below are links to the SDEA contract changes and a petition to support the Oakland action.

Rich Gibson ( is an emeritus professor at San Diego State University and a co-founder of the Rouge Forum, holding its annual conference in Oxford Ohio, June 22-24.

He will be with the California delegation at the DC Hilton during the NEA-RA.