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This year United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) scored a historic victory including caps on charter schools and class sizes, funds for hiring more counselors, librarians and nurses, and a 6 percent wage increase. The LA teachers showed that even in a post-Janus world member-to-member organizing can transform a union of 34,000 workers into a militant strike force.

An intersectional approach to labor solidarity was key to their victory. UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl said, “Fighting about class size and a full-time nurse in schools in a district that is overwhelmingly kids of color is a racial-justice issue. Period.” Likewise, Rosa Jimenez, a history teacher at RFK Community School, applauded her union’s advocacy of undocumented students. UTLA donated funds to DACA recipients to renew their papers and took a hard line against on-campus police searches. Finally, the union is well aware of the importance of gender in their struggle for worker rights. One teacher at an environmental magnet school pointed out, “If teaching happened to be a male-dominated industry, we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now.”

At the UMass Labor Center, we are educating a new generation of labor leaders in the tactical innovations driving the victories of unions like UTLA. In addition to the building blocks of union administration, we teach an inclusive approach to movement-building that sees the fight for economic justice as inseparable from the struggles of women, people of color, and immigrants. 

If you share this vision of the labor movement and social change, apply to the UMass Amherst MS program in Labor Studies today. The deadline for the residential program is March 1; applications to the ULA program are due by March 8.

For more information, go to https://www.umass.edu/lrrc/. You may also contact Academic Programs Manager Julie Rosier at (413) 545-4875 or Labor Center Director Cedric de Leon at (413) 545-4066.