By John Perez
UTLA-R President

Under the leadership of UTLA-R Vice President Cecelia Boskin and UTLA-R Secretary Susie Chow, UTLA-Retired is in the midst of a very successful PACE membership add-in campaign. 

The need is obvious: UTLA needs every member to join the UTLA political fund —PACE — so that the funding gap can be narrowed between what the privatizers/charterization crowd can spend to support their candidates for school board and what UTLA can spend. 

Even though we helped elect Dr. Rocio Rivas to the school board recently, UTLA was vastly outspent by those who would privatize the LAUSD. Between 2005 and 2016, the pro-charter school majorities on the LAUSD school board privatized 20% of LAUSD and the number of charter schools jumped from barely 58 to over 220! 

The prime priority for UTLA-R is to protect the lifetime benefits of our retirees and to keep the ability of our active colleagues to qualify for lifetime benefits. We don’t want the LAUSD to become New Orleans West. In New Orleans, the privatizers have privatized the entire school district, and the district does not have a districtwide health benefits program. Each individual school provides health benefits for its employees, which means the quality can vary widely. A new privatizer LAUSD school board next year would start working on privatizing the remaining 80% of the district. UTLA-R does not want that to happen.

Five years ago, UTLA-R did not have the ability to allow our members to join PACE; all we could do was ask our members at our General Assembly meetings to write checks. The best we ever did in any one year was collect $7,000 for PACE. Then we made it possible for our members to join PACE, just like our active colleagues do, and that opened the door to our being able to run a PACE sign-on campaign.

Our best strategy for communicating with UTLA -R members is by snail mail. Our first PACE campaign got us up to 400 monthly PACE contributors — $40,000 a year so PACE can support UTLA’s endorsed candidates for the school board. Two more PACE drives brought our UTLA-R PACE membership up to 682, at which point the UTLA-Steering Committee authorized the latest PACE add-on campaign. 

The campaign under the leadership of Cecelia and Susie included a letter to our members and follow-up postcards. The letter detailed how the LAUSD wanted to destroy our benefits plan, wanted to eliminate lifetime benefits, and wanted to change the Health Benefits Committee so that there would not be 9 votes on the HBC (1 for each union and 1 for the district), but only 2 votes, 1 for the district and 1 for the 8 unions. Next up will be postcards to more than 600 members who were awarded for their work for UTLA with a Lifetime Membership in UTLA-R. This campaign has so far brought in 190 new PACE members and close to $1,500 in cash contributions. The 190 new members is a 27.9% increase in UTLA-R’s PACE membership. Now UTLA-R will be contributing not $7,000 a year to PACE but $87,200 — a 1,146% increase in just 5 years!

This will not be our last PACE drive. The UTLA-R Steering Committee has set the goal of getting 100% of our members into PACE. Secure healthcare and saving public education are that important.