The LA teachers’ union has announced that they don’t want to go back to work teaching kids who are physically present in classrooms until certain demands have been met. Among those demands are mandatory mask wearing in the classroom, a moratorium on charter schools, and defunding the police. They claim their demands are driven by a concern for safety.
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States underscores the deep equity and justice challenges arising from our profoundly racist, intensely unequal society. Unlike other countries that recognize protecting lives is the key to protecting livelihoods, the United States has chosen to prioritize profits over people. The Trump administration’s attempt to force people to return to work on a large scale depends on restarting physical schools so parents have childcare.
In Los Angeles, this means increasing risk especially in Black and Brown working communities, where people are more likely to have “essential” jobs, insufficient health care, higher levels of preexisting health conditions, and to live in crowded housing. Meanwhile, the rewards of economic recovery accrue largely to white and well-off communities that have largely been shielded from the worst of the pandemic’s effects.
The profits vs. people cant in those paragraphs seems to be more about power than safety.
However, the real clue to what’s going on may be the teachers’ signing on to the campaign to defund the police. At first glance, it seems odd, setting one public employee union against another—until you consider the broader situation in California. The State of California is broke. The CALPERS retirement system isn’t properly funded. Unemployment checks are being delayed for lack of funds. State revenue is down because unemployed people don’t pay income taxes and make fewer purchases to generate sale tax revenue. And the state is now entering into a second shutdown, so the state’s revenues will continue to collapse.
It won’t be long before California and its counties and cities will no longer be able to pay all their employees. They will have to choose who to let go from among their host of teachers, bureaucrats, firefighters, and cops. Gentle Reader, given the current crime wave, who do you think the Inner Party will choose to keep to the bitter end? If the teachers’ union wants to preserve as many jobs as possible, it’s going to have to find ways to suck money out of other portions of the education budget. Reduction of physical plant expenses is the low hanging fruit in such an exercise.
It isn’t about safety.
It’s about paychecks.