Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NewTLA Candidate Upsets Washington, Wins UTLA Presidency

Contrary to most predictions, Julie Washington was beaten by Warren Fletcher in the runoffs for president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. According to the L.A. Times, Fletcher had 4,711 votes or 53.6% and Washington had 4,247 votes or 47.4%. However, less than 80% of members actually voted.

Washington was the former vice president and considered by most to be an insider who would carry on the legacy of A.J. Duffy. She was the chief negotiator on several occasions in which UTLA gave up significant concessions. Fletcher, in contrast, ran a campaign that was critical of the previous UTLA administration and its weakness in defending teachers’ interests. He had the support of a small opposition movement within the union called NewTLA. According to In My Trends, NewTLA endorsed Fletcher “based on the belief that he would help promote a more respectful, civil environment within UTLA where meaningful reform may be more likely.”

NewTLA has argued that UTLA is an antiquated union, stuck in the old ways (e.g., fighting to protect teachers’ pay, benefits and working conditions), unwilling to collaborate with the bosses to facilitate reforms (i.e., unwilling to accept reforms that would undermine working conditions and labor protections and maybe not even benefit students). (See NewTLA: Voice of Reform or Reaction?) The question is will Fletcher be their man? Fletcher's campaign platform emphasized returning “UTLA to its core priorities" of salary, benefits, retirement and job security, implying that he is not interested in fighting privatization and the proliferation of charter schools, attempts to tie teacher pay to student test scores, or other “tangential” issues also known as top down reforms. Furthermore, he hardly mentioned rank and file organizing during his campaign, suggesting that he does not intend to rule by consensus.

If Fletcher turns out to be a true NewTLA union president, UTLA members will surely suffer, while the billionaire Ed Deformers will have a valuable insider where they need it most: heading the nation’s second largest teachers union.

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