LOS ANGELES, April 4 — “I move that UTLA adopt the motion calling for a one-day strike on May First,” said a comrade in the teachers union (UTLA) House of Representatives. This motion had passed overwhelmingly in four of the nine area meetings two weeks previously.
On March 13, nearly 9,000 teachers and health and human services personnel got pink slips for June layoffs. The jobs of many classified workers are threatened too. In response, teachers, other school workers, parents and students are fighting back and PLP is giving communist leadership.
The day of the layoffs saw walkouts and spontaneous demonstrations. Since then, there has been much more organized struggle, including before-school picketing and some militant job actions where teachers and students walked in an hour late. More actions are planned, with students, parents and non-teaching employees. Hundreds of “Petitions to Save our Schools” are circulating charging teacher layoffs as racist — layoffs of new teachers hit schools with black and Latino kids (the vast majority) the hardest — and an attack on the whole working class.
PLP members and friends are active in these struggles, linking these layoffs to the deep crisis of capitalism. The capitalists’ goal is profit at all costs; our goal is the well-being of ourselves and our class, to have decent jobs, raise our families and survive. These two goals are directly contradictory. The bosses demand more and more of the value workers produce (which is all value) through cuts and taxes to prop up their banks, profits and expanding wars in the Middle-East for control of oil and gas resources to maintain their empire.
We advocated an illegal strike against layoffs and cutbacks, calling for a one-day work stoppage on May 1 — joining with immigrants organizing for an immigrants’ rights march that day — in an action to defend the education of the children of all workers. From the start, the union leadership opposed the resolution, saying it would be too difficult politically to organize a one-day strike on May Day, the same day that immigrants were marching, because so many teachers are both anti-communist and anti-immigrant.
These fake leftists are seen nationally as “progressive,” but when it counts they’re unwilling to fight for the unity of the working class or to defend the rights of immigrants and their children. “Our message will be diluted in the immigrants rights march,” said a member of the Board of Directors. A young teacher responded, “May Day represents the international working class, and we support a one-day strike in defense of our teachers, our students, and their families.” The union leadership put forward, and narrowly won, a substitute motion for a membership vote to ratify a one-day work stoppage — any other day in May but May Day!
Many were angry. Of 250 teachers at the meeting, 100 took CHALLENGE. There are real victories here. By making May Day a mass issue we’ve raised with students, teachers and other school workers the real meaning of May Day — International Workers’ Day.
May Day is the day when workers worldwide fight for our class, against the racist exploitation and wars of the capitalist bosses. It’s been our day since 1886, when workers in Chicago fought for the eight-hour day, and has been celebrated around the world ever since. PLP has brought the fight for internationalism and communist revolution back to May Day.
That’s why we’re having a PLP contingent within the immigrants’ rights march, to champion this communist nature of May Day. This is distinct from the march organizers who support the liberal rulers’ plans to exploit immigrant workers for super-profits in low-wage jobs and use their youth as cannon fodder in the bosses’ imperialist wars.
The struggle is helping our friends see the nature of the capitalist crisis. We say shutting down Los Angeles on May Day would be part of building up to a strike to shut down the school system until all jobs are restored. More importantly, it would help to build unity for the long-term fight to destroy the profit system. We’ve explained that we should have no illusions that even a militant strike will reverse all the attacks. This is a contracting capitalist system in crisis — one built into the system based on profits for a few at the expense of millions of workers.
Instead we need a system run by and for the working class, not the bankers, to eliminate the bosses and organize society to produce for the needs of the working class, not for profits. We need communism, not socialism (which retained banks), for a world without money, bosses or borders. Our success will be measured in expanding CHALLENGE networks and recruiting more PLP members!