This week, the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) came to an agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the United States. The strike was over. Teachers went back to school yesterday, putting an end to the week-long strike that left schools with skeleton staffs. The LAUSD walked away happy because they now had their schools staffed with teachers. The UTLA was content with a commitment from the district to reduce class sizes, a salary increase, and a commitment to hire more support staff like librarians and nurses. At the center of this debate was the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.
With his presidential ambitions evident, the teacher’s strike was not welcome news for the Mayor. He has highlighted over the last year his potential messaging for a 2020 run: mayors get things done. If he were in the middle of a campaign and teachers in L.A. were picketing, that image of a productive mayor would have been called into question.
However, that’s not what happened. His office mediated the talks and now Garcetti can point to the teacher’s strike as proof of his ability to make a deal, a skill our current president has touted but not flaunted during this government shutdown.
Some pundits and commentators, however, were quick to make predictions about how this strike would affect Eric Garcetti’s 2020 prospects or how him mediating the talks might be hazardous. When I read articles talking about how it would be a good idea for him to sit this one out, all I kept thinking was ‘the talks just started, what if he is successful? What if he makes a deal?’
When the strike eventually came, pieces were being written about every risk that followed Eric Garcetti. It ruined his image of local government getting things done. It presented a hypocritical message of a mayor who is with teachers and unions while a strike occurs in his city, and a crowd of picketing teachers is not the kind of publicity the Mayor wants. Any benefits Eric Garcetti’s involvement in this strike had for a potential 2020 campaign did not outway the likely drawbacks.
While I think these stories made good points about the potential drawbacks, they were just that, potential drawbacks. Had the strike occurred while Garcetti was already running, it would have been detrimental to a presidential campaign. However, they occurred before he announced, giving him an opportunity.
And he jumped at it.
Garcetti can say he’s a dealmaker
Garcetti volunteered his office and city hall as a mediating force. Stories came out about marathon negotiations and all-night meetings so that the parties could agree on a deal. All of that work paid off. The UTLA and the LAUSD walked away with an accomplishment that saw the strike end and teachers return to school.
Eric Garcetti can say to 2020 democratic voters, should he decide to run, that while Washington D.C. was averse to ending the shutdown, he facilitated an agreement. One that ended a teacher’s strike in the second largest school district in the country. It was not the cynical outcome some observers said it would be, quite the opposite. It is a concrete example of local government getting things done.
One thing I agree with the pundits on was that it was a risk for Garcetti’s 2020 ambitions. And that risk paid off.