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On the Line from L.A.

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More than 30,000 teachers and their supporters returned to the picket lines across LAUSD on the third day of the largest teacher strike in U.S. history. The fight for the soul of public education continues as educators and their supporters called out the billionaires who are trying to dismantle and privatize our public schools.

Two days ago, teachers in Los Angeles began our first strike in 30 years. I felt strongly that Los Angeles teachers had to strike, and that our basic demands had been ignored for too long.

But I was dreading it. I anticipated being out in the cold and rain for days on end, being on my feet for hours, and being both misrepresented and misunderstood by the district and some media outlets. The day before the strike, I was not happy.

To prepare for the weather, I went to my local surplus store on Sunday evening, right before it closed. I met two fellow teachers in the store, also buying rain ponchos and boots in preparation for the strike. The cashier told us teachers were in the store all weekend, buying up rain gear. I felt a sense of camaraderie as we chatted about our hopes and fears, but it didn’t quite lift my spirits. Still, I did begin to feel a sense of solidarity.

Teachers United

The next day, as we began the first day on strike, I began to feel the sense of common purpose and the justice of our cause. I already like my colleagues, but gathering on the picket line together, wearing union red and holding signs, I was moved and inspired to be in this struggle together.  

After picketing outside our school for two hours, we took the Metro downtown together to for a rally and then a march toward the district headquarters. With 32,000 teachers shouting, chanting, cheering, the energy in the air was electric and contagious. I felt it walking the mile to the Metro station, and I feel it in our massive rallies. I felt it when we entered a Metro train and yelled “Roll Call” then shouted out the name of our school. Groups of teachers followed by shouting their school’s name. We are teachers, united, supporting each other in the struggle to improve our schools.

Surprise Support

Day 1 of the L.A. strike was rainy, but spirits were anything but dampened.

Over my 16 years of teaching, it has been painful and confusing for me to hear teachers demonized by the loudest voices in the debate about public education. While I often hear positive things from individuals in conversation, I truly believed that the public didn’t care, or was not supportive of their local public school teachers.

Striking has changed that.

It has been moving and profound to hear and witness such clear public support. Our social media feeds are full of people posting in support of the strike, adding “I Stand With Teachers” frames to their profile pics, and encouraging people to call the district in support of teachers, and sharing other ways people can support the strike.

Bus drivers, truck drivers and other drivers regularly honk their horns in support of us, whether we are downtown, or at our school. Even the police have honked in support. It is impossible to convey how inspiring it is to hear bystanders shout, honk, and wave their arms in support of what we are doing.

One of the most powerful parts of our first day of striking unfolded as our dense crowd entered a long tunnel under the freeway. The protection from the rain allowed us to take down our umbrellas, to peel off our plastic ponchos, and to see each other’s faces more clearly. As we heard the echo of our voices, the energy and the volume spiked. Our chanting, drum-beating, clapping and whistling became louder. It was so moving to be part of a sea of teachers, in unity for our common cause.

As we reached the end of the tunnel, and stepped back into the rain, I looked up at the overpass above me. A large, boisterous crowd was gathered there. But they weren’t teachers. They were community members with hand-painted signs supporting us. They clapped and cheered as we looked up at them. I felt acknowledged, appreciated and valued for being a teacher, and I felt that we were not in this struggle alone. It also felt like people understood that this struggle was for our city’s students and schools not simply about teacher pay.

In the last two days, as teachers have swarmed buses, Metro trains, and the streets of downtown Los Angeles, we have inconvenienced commuters and routines of many who live and work there. But I have heard only words of gratitude and support.

On our way back to the Metro to return to our school, I saw a woman with her kindergarten-age child. I overheard her talking to her daughter. “Do you see all these people in red? They are teachers.”

“Thanks for coming out to support us,” I said.

“No,” she clarified. “We didn’t plan this. We were just walking up the street. I was ten years old during the last strike. I remember it exactly. I want my daughter to know what teachers do for us.”

Los Angeles United School District middle school teacher Melissa Minkin has been a union member for 16 years. She agreed to write about her experience on the picket line with WEA members. A National Board Certified Teacher with a master’s degree in Education, Minkin grew up in LAUSD schools. She blogs about the teaching life at

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