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L.A. teachers union reelects leader amid push for 20% raise, smaller classes, family aid


Cecily Myart-Cruz has won re-election as president of United Teachers Los Angeles, receiving three of the four votes cast, endorsing the union’s progressive social agenda and contract demands requiring a 20% increase over two years, can maintain.

The heavy favourite, Myart-Cruz, 49, won a second three-year term with 75.5% of the vote. Veteran substitute teacher Leonard Segal finished second with 16.6% and Greg Russell, another longtime substitute teacher, had 7.9%.

The union represents about 35,000 teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses in the country’s second largest school system.

Myart-Cruz has positioned the union as a progressive voice for underserved black and Latino students. The union has a significant influence on the education of children in Los Angeles and has been a driving force behind district decisions about time spent on online learning and early access to vaccines for teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Myart-Cruz was not immediately available for comment, but had issued a statement before the close of voting.

“I’m proud to have led this union of more than 35,000 Los Angeles educators through all the challenges we’ve faced and all we’ve accomplished together over the past three years,” she said. “I am determined to keep fighting for our school communities and I am eager to build on the progress of UTLA’s Beyond Recovery platform as we continue contract negotiations with LAUSD.”

Union leaders are expected to have a say in any renewed attempt to extend the school year or school day, which affects working hours. Leaders will also negotiate how and where to reduce class sizes and consider whether to shorten the winter break from three weeks to two weeks. There has also been a decades-long debate about who controls what happens in schools, in terms of teacher assignments, hirings and spending.

In ongoing contract negotiations, the union’s extensive list of negotiating priorities includes areas such as funding for the Black Student Achievement Program, details of organizing the district, building affordable housing for low-income families, environmental justice, healthy nutrition, trauma-informed education , conflict de-escalation techniques and better access to ethnic studies.

In January 2019, teachers went on strike for six days and won some important concessions – such as a class size limit – although the strike itself did not result in higher wages or better benefits. To avoid another strike, the union and the school district must agree on wages generous enough to hire and retain teachers as the district faces economic uncertainties.

Before the campaign, Myart-Cruz had a all-woman slate that didn’t include three officers from her first term. The most notable change was the departure of union vice president Alex Caputo-Pearl, who had preceded Myart-Cruz as union president. Caputo-Pearl said he decided not to run for a second term as vice president.

The Myart-Cruz slate won five of the seven citywide officer races. A Segal-compiled slate won none. One race goes to a second round.

Online voting began on February 7 and continued until 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Turnout was low. About 88%, or about 31,000, of the more than 35,000 eligible members belong to the union, giving them the right to vote. Of these, 7,385 cast votes for union president, about 24%. The union has not yet released official turnout figures.

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