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Preparing for a General Strike, with Cecily Myart-Cruz

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Black Work Talk
Black Work Talk
Preparing for a General Strike, with Cecily Myart-Cruz

In this episode, United Teachers Los Angeles President Cecily Myart-Cruz joins Bianca and Jamala to discuss the challenges she has faced as the first woman of color to head this powerhouse union, and a leader who took over during the COVID-19 pandemic. When she advocated for educators and students in 2020, she faced immediate backlash. The interview explores how she found the resolve to continue to stand up for LA’s teachers, students, and their families amidst such hostility.

Cecily’s experience as a strong union leader on the Left makes her consideration of a general strike unique. She, Bianca and Jamala discuss the possibility of such an action and what it would take to make one a reality.

Black Work Talk will be on a winter hiatus for the next few weeks. Be sure to subscibe in your podcast feed to be alerted when new episodes appear in early January.

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[00:00:00] Cecily Myart-Cruz: It’s about the collectivism. When I work with students, I want to hear what they have to say and how can I leverage. Power to be able to get what they need and not afraid to sit in a passenger seat while the students or the community or the parents are driving. A lot of unions are like, I got to be the [00:00:30] leader.

[00:00:30] I have to be in the lead. I don’t have to be in the lead.

[00:00:42] Bianca Cunningham: Welcome to Black Work Talk, the podcast voice of Black workers, leaders, activists, and intellectuals exploring connections between race. Capitalism, labor, and culture, and the struggle for democratic, progressive, governing power. I’m your host, Bianca Cunningham. 

[00:00:58] Jamala Rogers: And I’m your co host, [00:01:00] Jamilah Rogers. We’ll be joined shortly by the president of the Los Angeles Teachers Union, Cicely Mayard Cruz.

[00:01:07] And she’ll be talking about the role of education unions in retaining and fighting for Black teachers in their schools, and the possibility and need for a general strike, and 

[00:01:16] Cecily Myart-Cruz: much, much more.

[00:01:21] Jamala Rogers: On this show, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking and debating with folks who are already active in the labor movement, but there are a number of people who are [00:01:30] going to be new to this movement and who want to be engaged who don’t know the landscape of union organizing. And rather than them hit those landmines and their campaigns blow up before they even 

[00:01:42] Cecily Myart-Cruz: have a 

[00:01:42] Jamala Rogers: chance to get started, we want to offer Some organizing tips.

[00:01:48] So 

[00:01:48] Cecily Myart-Cruz: here to talk to you about that 

[00:01:50] Jamala Rogers: is my cohost, Bianca. 

[00:01:52] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Bianca, what are we talking about today? 

[00:01:54] Bianca Cunningham: So Jamala, today we’re going to talk about anti union campaigns. This is the phase where you [00:02:00] have filed at the national labor relations board, right? Uh, ideally with 80%, um, of your coworkers signed on to say that they want to have an election for a union.

[00:02:10] And this is the. first time that, uh, it is officially would be public once you file that the Hopefully the employer is now getting tipped off about your campaign if they haven’t been alerted to it sooner by one of the loose lips, um, of your coworkers. So if you made it to this [00:02:30] point, congratulations, without them knowing, congratulations, you’re doing better than most other, um, units who do file.

[00:02:38] Um, but yeah, once the employer finds out about your campaign. I have a funny story about how our employer found out that I can say in a second, but once the employer finds out about your campaign Q scene for them to try to cause conflict. Um, they’re going to try to increase the fear and just increase the tension and like the discomfort [00:03:00] generally in the workplace.

[00:03:02] Um, everything is going to be about you all wanting to support a union. So whether good things are, you know, anything that bad that’s happening, it’s going to be because you all are wanting to bring a union in there. It’s also going to be. Like, other ways and tactics for them to intimidate the workers, um, I have a million examples running through my head right now, but in general, the playbook is always the same.

[00:03:29] I mean, this [00:03:30] is like the really shocking thing for people. They don’t change it according to employer, they don’t change, or into an, uh, according, yeah, according to who works there or the type of people who work there. It works across the board generally, and so they have kept it really the same. And so things that they will do are things like predicting layoffs or that there’ll be office closings or plant closings, you know, if you all do decide to vote, um, for the union.

[00:03:56] There’s stuff about, you know, scaring employees with warnings [00:04:00] that the union is going to take you on strike and that the union is super violent and full of quote unquote union thugs who will, you know, hurt people and take you into dangerous situations. Sometimes they talk about, uh, like Unspoken threats or, you know, like disciplinary actions, kind of like arbitrary disciplinary actions or things that could happen to you that they, you know, that they can’t explicitly say, but they might hint at it to try to get you to make those, that connection that they see you as a [00:04:30] supporter and that they’re willing to retaliate against you, even if it is, um, illegal.

[00:04:35] might also talk about, you know, third party or the outside organization. The union is going to come between me and you is like something that the manager might say. It’s like, I can no longer communicate directly with you. I have to, uh, communicate with your representative, which is absolutely not true, but it’s a way to To instill some fear into you or some reservations into you about wanting to, uh, vote to have union [00:05:00] representation.

[00:05:00] There also could just be stuff about, you know, they’re trying to educate you, quote, unquote, on the dues or how much that costs, or really they could just ask for another chance to improve working conditions. Hey, listen, we didn’t know about this. Now we’re here, we care. give us a chance to make it right.

[00:05:16] Right. So there’s a couple of things to remember if you encounter any of those. Number one, the union is not an outside organization. The union is only as effective as you, you and your coworkers. A union is an organization that [00:05:30] has some resources, um, some legal support. some information on your rights that they can help and assist you go through the process, but the quality and the strength and the militancy of your union and any other decisions that you all like that are made are going to be on you and your co workers because you all are the union.

[00:05:48] So that’s number one. There is no outside party. It’s how you and your co workers decide to move collectively. And I think the second thing is just to remember that Although [00:06:00] they do, you know, make these indirect threats, they know that they don’t want to break the law because those are things that you can file, you know, charges that you can file at the National Labor Relations Board, and so they’ll just come to the edge of breaking the law, right?

[00:06:13] They’ll just say the thing that’s right before the explicit, you know, thing talking about discipline, talking about what the consequences will be if you all vote for union, and it’s actually pretty common, um, for all employers to do this. So, I wouldn’t be, you know, [00:06:30] that phased if you hear them making those kind of empty threats.

[00:06:32] I would just say document them and anything that they bring up to you during this phase, whether they’re improvements, whether they’re threats, ask to get it in writing because they can’t make any promises to you that are outside of the process that’s designated. I don’t know about you, Jamala, but I assume that you have a million stories about this, like some of the things that I saw my employer do.

[00:06:53] Um, well, definitely taking people down into the basement where there was like no cell phone service so they can, you know, [00:07:00] intimidate you, ask you, you know, asking me things about whether I like my job, how long I’ve been there, telling me stories about how long they’ve been there and how much they put into the company, saying that it would be a shame, you know, like if a union were to come in.

[00:07:14] Um, but hypothetically, right, um, I’ve also seen them intimidate workers, um, and threaten workers who were here on work visas, are, uh, new citizens to talk about how, you know, they really needed this job for their work visa, um, and it would [00:07:30] be really a shame if any of that paperwork got messed up because, you know, the company took a chance on them and hiring them when they came to this country, things like that.

[00:07:37] I would also say I, I’ve also seen them, um. Even intimidate somebody who was going through a divorce and having a legal custody, um, with her ex. I’ve seen them intimidate her to say that, like, she shouldn’t be involving herself in these types of, uh, you know, situations. As far as unionizing, like, she has bigger things to worry about what happens if you lose custody of your daughter.

[00:07:59] [00:08:00] So I, I’ve kind of like seen it all. Um, and you know, they are very creative. So the ways that they try to intimidate, um, you all, but I think you said this in an earlier episode, which is like, this is why technology is so important. You know, me and my coworkers use, you know, back in the day, nobody shaved me group me, we use group me to, you know, everybody was in the same group chat.

[00:08:24] You know, as I mentioned, we weren’t all in the same work site. We worked in separate stores. And so, you know, one [00:08:30] store would report, Hey, this big, you know, person just came in, whether it was the CEO, whether it was the CFO, whether it was the vice president of blah, blah, blah, whatever they were, right. This person just came in.

[00:08:39] This is what they said to us. This is who they spoke to in the back and then having the people in the back saying, this is what they said to me. Okay. I heard them say, they’re headed to you, you know, this, this store next. And so giving you all the heads up, I mean, just like having that space where people can just, you know, go to, to vent and to say, I’m scared.

[00:08:57] And to say like, what do I say, or for us to workshop [00:09:00] together, how we’re going to respond or just be prepared for the things that they were throwing at us. which was everything from threats, we call it a little bit of honey, a little bit of vinegar, you know, they gave us a little bit of threats and a little bit of sternness, and then they turn around and give us, like, you know, free food and say that they really are invested in wanting to change things, um, they had no idea what was happening, and so you get a little bit of all that, um.

[00:09:23] It is really the wildest time of the union organizing process, I have to say. 

[00:09:28] Cecily Myart-Cruz: No, and it is when you 

[00:09:29] Jamala Rogers: really [00:09:30] get to see the character of who you’re working for, because there is an array of wicked tactics that they use. Though, 

[00:09:39] Cecily Myart-Cruz: and 

[00:09:39] Jamala Rogers: to your point, and just to lift that up more, is they also will add the honey.

[00:09:44] I remember, uh, in one case where we were organizing, 

[00:09:48] Cecily Myart-Cruz: they actually gave a Bonus that 

[00:09:51] Jamala Rogers: came out from nowhere. And then, uh, 

[00:09:54] Cecily Myart-Cruz: that summer we had a 

[00:09:55] Jamala Rogers: big company picnic. So then people started to say, well, [00:10:00] maybe 

[00:10:00] Cecily Myart-Cruz: we don’t need a union. I go, Oh boy, here we go. 

[00:10:06] Jamala Rogers: The goodies are getting piled 

[00:10:07] Cecily Myart-Cruz: on and people are having second thoughts, 

[00:10:10] Jamala Rogers: but then the issue becomes, okay, 

[00:10:11] Cecily Myart-Cruz: what if there’s an issue that there’s disagreement about, and 

[00:10:16] Jamala Rogers: you have nowhere.

[00:10:17] To air that, but to the people who are part of the grievance. So it really is just being as astute as you can be in the organizing and letting people know all the different ways that people [00:10:30] will be coming at you. They won’t all look mean and bad and ugly, uh, but 

[00:10:35] Cecily Myart-Cruz: trust 

[00:10:35] Jamala Rogers: and believe is all about, uh, making sure that there’s no union on the, in 

[00:10:40] Cecily Myart-Cruz: that workplace.

[00:10:41] Bianca Cunningham: Absolutely. Jamala, what you just said reminding me of something that I should have said from the back from the bat right off the bat. This is black work talk. So one of the first things my company did when we did go public. So first of all, we didn’t have any loose lips in our ship, right? We were moving in silence and violence as we say, [00:11:00] right?

[00:11:00] Um, so, so they had zero idea up until the time that we filed that we were going to fire that we were even doing any union that they had no idea they were completely blindsided. I remember About to close at the store with my assistant manager there. She gets a call from one of the other stores and the store manager is asking her, talking to her, and all of a sudden she looks around.

[00:11:19] I’m sitting right next to her and we’re all on the floor. So all of a sudden she looks around and she starts looking at our wrists. Well, one of the things that we have done when we have people sign that manifesto or petition or whatever that [00:11:30] was, right? Our statement is that we have them put on a wristband that says CWA strong, or CWA yes, I think is what it said.

[00:11:37] We all have the wristbands on, they didn’t even know. She looked around and she was like, yeah, they all are wearing wristbands. And then it was like emergency, emergency, emergency. All of a sudden she’s like, I can’t even leave. We’re not closing. I have to go into a meeting. And we were all chuckling. Like, okay, we did it.

[00:11:51] That’s the first. step. Now they see we’re out here and we have majority support. So after they realized that one of the first things that they [00:12:00] did, Jamal, it was like me and my, so I live in Brooklyn, me and my coworkers, mostly Afro Caribbean workforce, right? Everybody’s, um, you know, everybody’s of color, right?

[00:12:09] regardless of across the seven stores. For the most part, the first thing they did was replace all of our assistant managers and managers who were white for the most part with exceptions. But for the most part, they replaced all those folks with black folks. All of a sudden they were transferring all the black faces from outside the district.

[00:12:29] Inside. [00:12:30] So what was that about? Right? Just 

[00:12:31] Cecily Myart-Cruz: got complicated. 

[00:12:34] Bianca Cunningham: Okay, thank you. So maybe we’ll soften our position against the union. If we start to see some skin folk, skin folk, I don’t know, skin folk around us. Right? Um, so that was their first thing. It was so egregious, though, that our district manager is actually was a white guy named Mike.

[00:12:50] Famous for dropping the n word in a conversation that we had recorded already because we were all real, we were always like gathering, you know, receipts, right? That’s us. [00:13:00] So, uh, they fired him or they moved him. I don’t know if they fired him or moved him, whatever, but they replaced him with a black guy named Mike.

[00:13:07] And so we started calling him Black Mike. And you know, it was just so obvious. We were so offended, but it’s like one of the ways that the boss can use racism, right? And like race. to try to manipulate, um, the outcome for themselves and for their own pockets, right? So that was the first thing that they did.

[00:13:26] The second thing they did was like, I mentioned most of us [00:13:30] were black, brown. There was one store, South Brooklyn, Russian store, Russian speaking store. So it means, you know, those folks, you know, were not black speaking Russians, right? They were white. And the second thing they did after they replaced all the managers, except for in that store, they went to that store and told them, Hey, you all might have seen your co workers because we filed for all the stores, including them.

[00:13:52] Um, but there were really small stores. So we, their numbers didn’t really affect us. You know, you saw your co workers, they filed for a union. You don’t, [00:14:00] they’re lazy. They don’t want to do their jobs. You all don’t have anything in common with them. Right. And it was all about like their ability to speak their own language.

[00:14:08] They have like a slower kind of traffic store. And they were seeing that as like a community store in a sense, right. Because they were serving the immediate like Russian speaking community around. And so they like actually use that store to promote snitches. Um, and as assistant managers and some of our other stories, but also went to that store and was like, that was actually our one [00:14:30] holdout for union support.

[00:14:31] I think out of the whole store, there was only one person in the store who supported the union. Um, and so. Also using race in that sense, right, to try to divide them from us to say, like, you all are, you’re not the same kind of person so dog whistling in there or coded racism there about us being lazy, right, or not wanting to do their jobs, them having it good and not seeing themselves as being connected to our fight necessarily.

[00:14:56] It’s important to note though, uh, once we did win the union, [00:15:00] that was the first store to be closed. Yeah. 

[00:15:05] Jamala Rogers: Well, it’s, it’s interesting 

[00:15:06] Cecily Myart-Cruz: that they play that, that race car, because 

[00:15:09] Jamala Rogers: that is one of the things that, uh, often comes out about affirmative action, that black and brown people are advancing when they weren’t qualified.

[00:15:19] And so when 

[00:15:20] Cecily Myart-Cruz: action like that happens, it certainly could be said, 

[00:15:23] Jamala Rogers: well, wait a minute, they weren’t even in line for this. But all of a sudden out of the clear blue, they’re now the store [00:15:30] manager. And 

[00:15:30] Cecily Myart-Cruz: it really does. Uh, it’s a blow to 

[00:15:33] Jamala Rogers: making sure that there’s, uh, 

[00:15:36] Cecily Myart-Cruz: interracial solidarity 

[00:15:38] Jamala Rogers: that we are working with, you know, all of the workers in ways that we can to build a unity, but those little digs 

[00:15:47] Cecily Myart-Cruz: don’t help at all.

[00:15:55] Bianca Cunningham: So I guess. Today is the first woman of color to serve as president of the Los [00:16:00] Angeles Teachers Union, Cecily Maillard Cruz. Upon joining in July of 2020, during the early months of COVID pandemic, she organized teachers, students, and families to fight for strong COVID health and safety measures. Cecily was reelected to her position in February and went on to back SEIU Local 99’s essential support workers in L.

[00:16:21] A. schools who held a three day strike. the next month. Okay, Cecily. So I’m so excited that you’re here. Thank you so much for taking the time. We know [00:16:30] you are a busy woman. 

[00:16:33] Cecily Myart-Cruz: We’re all busy. Yes. Yes. 

[00:16:36] Bianca Cunningham: Okay. So first I want to talk about you coming into this role of president of the Los Angeles Teachers Union.

[00:16:44] You came in Right in the thick or in the early days of COVID, I should say. So how was it, you know, coming in, uh, during COVID having to advocate, you know, for educators and staff and go through all [00:17:00] that, what kind of backlash did you face for standing up right away? Just talk about like what the experience was like with us.

[00:17:07] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Yeah. So for folks who don’t know, uh, United Teachers Los Angeles, we’re the second largest, uh, teachers. Local in the entire country. New York is first as a state. But as a local, we have 925 work sites and we have 37, 000 members. We both are A. [00:17:30] F. T. And N. E. A. As affiliates. 

[00:17:33] Bianca Cunningham: I’m just gonna American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

[00:17:38] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Yes, thank you. Sorry about that. Um, and I have served as vice president, um, as the NEA National Education Association vice president, um, for six years prior to taking on the helm of being, uh, becoming the president of UTLA [00:18:00] and, uh, right there in the pandemic. You know, and one of the things I can say is that our educators did a yeoman’s job and keeping education going while the school buildings were Closed, uh, education was still open and flowing, um, and learning a program zoom that no one ever heard of before, um, and [00:18:30] flipping their entire classrooms literally overnight, uh, Friday, the 13th, March 13th.

[00:18:37] Schools were deemed closed. That Monday folks were back at work on this platform and really trying to figure out how to do this work together. It was the thick of it. We did not know what COVID 19 was. There was no vaccine at [00:19:00] that exact time. And I think a lot of folks kind of believed that we were only going to be out for, you know, a week or two.

[00:19:10] And then that turned into A year and a half of being, um, at home and doing work from home, which is like incredible, like very incredible for me to still think about it. One of the things that was very heavy on my mind was the fact that [00:19:30] since we did not know what COVID 19 was, really working collaboratively with then superintendent Austin Buechner to really come together.

[00:19:42] around COVID safety protections that were really the gold standard across the country. And I believe that we did that. If I could do it again, I would do it exactly the same. Um, but we did catch [00:20:00] hell, um, here for it and me personally, uh, catching hell. One of the things that I would say is, you know, we had a lot of parents in the beginning.

[00:20:10] We had a lot of parents like very supportive, um, and so forth. And, and of course we had, we still had a lot of parents with us, but then there was this growing, what we have called the back to brunch, uh, parents, um, that were like, [00:20:30] we don’t care. Hurry up and get back into the classroom. You need to hurry up and do this.

[00:20:36] And what I was very Uh, I was keen on is the fact that here in L. A., we’re dealing with about, uh, 500, 000 students, um, a very marginalized, uh, school district, right? Second largest school district in the country. And a lot of our [00:21:00] homes where our babies live, they live in multi generational homes. So I live in a multi generational home.

[00:21:08] My mother lives with me and so does my son, who’s an LAUSD student. And. The fear was if we send our babies and we send our educators back into classrooms and there is no vaccine and we did not know what would happen, then [00:21:30] we would suffer the yo yo effect. And that’s what we saw happen in Boston, in Chicago, in New York, down South, that People rushed back in and then had to rush back out.

[00:21:46] And then it was just this constant and a lot of lives were lost. I can truly say here in LA, we did not have all of those lives [00:22:00] lost because we came back too soon or came back without a vaccine. And like I said, I stand by those decisions that we made. They were tough decisions. We were listening to, um, you know, the scientists we were, we were watching, we were watching the COVID rates.

[00:22:22] I mean, every day we were getting a new. Reading a new number, um, [00:22:30] and really having those, you know, investigative conversations with the district to say like, okay, you know, where are we here and, and what are y’all, what are you thinking? Um, how do we fit into that conversation? How do we make sure that we mitigate harm, um, to our babies and the communities in which we serve?

[00:22:52] And, uh, like I said. I wouldn’t trade it, um, for the world, but, uh, [00:23:00] backlash? Yes. Plenty. Uh, Tucker Carlson, uh, doxing me and putting my information out, um, for, you know, for the public to handwritten letters, um, to the serial killer type. Uh, letters where you cut out the letters and send, uh, from places of Wisconsin, Alabama.

[00:23:26] Oh my gosh. Uh, just really, really [00:23:30] awful things. Lots, you know, thousands of emails saying, you know, just really crazy things. Um, and what, uh, the, the one thing that I think hurt my heart the most is my son was in a breakout group. on his zoom and a couple of students, you know, said on, uh, said to him, you know, it’s because of your mom [00:24:00] that we can’t come back to school and, uh, use some explanatives.

[00:24:06] And then told him, you know, he should kill himself. And my son was like, is, is that, should I, should I do that? Um, like had these conversations and. He didn’t want to tell me. Right. And so, uh, obviously his teacher was [00:24:30] fantastic. And we, you know, sought the help of the psychiatric social worker, you know, via zoom and, you know, they were, you know, in conversation, but, you know, when grown folks talk to their children and you just don’t know how that plays out, it was just really telling about.

[00:24:52] You know, as a single parent, how do I protect my kid, um, from the hate, [00:25:00] um, that I receive on a daily basis? Uh, a 10 year old, um, should not be receiving, uh, that kind of, um, ire. Uh, from, from the public. Absolutely. And Cicely, 

[00:25:17] Jamala Rogers: before we aired, uh, I told you that I was a member of AFT, AFT Local 420 here during the 70s and 80s, and so it’s, my heart is still with teachers, still in the [00:25:30] classroom, uh, and, and one of the things I did my own basic, uh, 

[00:25:35] Cecily Myart-Cruz: recruitment recruitment.

[00:25:37] black 

[00:25:37] Jamala Rogers: teachers during that time. And I was able to be successful in getting millenniums to do it, but have not been successful, 

[00:25:46] Cecily Myart-Cruz: uh, with the next. 

[00:25:49] Jamala Rogers: just because they 

[00:25:50] Cecily Myart-Cruz: see the plight 

[00:25:52] Jamala Rogers: of teachers and they’re like, I don’t want none of that. So, so it’s been more difficult, but I remember specifically doing the [00:26:00] pandemic, uh, because it was 

[00:26:01] Cecily Myart-Cruz: politicized so early by the sitting 

[00:26:03] Jamala Rogers: president, it took on just a whole nother thing.

[00:26:07] But because for me, when I looked at the response of teachers saying, we, we don’t want to go back to school, not just. for ourselves, but for the kids 

[00:26:17] Cecily Myart-Cruz: and thinking about how 

[00:26:18] Jamala Rogers: some of the buildings in these school 

[00:26:21] Cecily Myart-Cruz: districts are old, hardly the 

[00:26:23] Jamala Rogers: ventilation is poor. And so then you have to say unequivocally, no, we can’t do that unless there’s some other 

[00:26:29] Cecily Myart-Cruz: measures in [00:26:30] place.

[00:26:30] And I just saw that people 

[00:26:32] Jamala Rogers: were just pressuring teachers to get back to school. 

[00:26:36] Cecily Myart-Cruz: So I appreciate it every time 

[00:26:38] Jamala Rogers: I spoke or wrote. About the issue. I’m like, I support the teachers union. We got to, we got to protect the babies and that’s what they do best. Teachers do that best as we’ve seen, but I’m also thinking about, you know, there were a number of teachers across the country that I’m, I’m in touch with.

[00:26:53] And a number of them felt like they didn’t get proper. training and preparation for the [00:27:00] COVID period. I know all of us were lost initially, 

[00:27:03] Cecily Myart-Cruz: but as 

[00:27:04] Jamala Rogers: information started coming in, there was some hope that, okay, now people have a grasp of what we’re dealing with. What, what tools can we get now? 

[00:27:12] Cecily Myart-Cruz: And people, unless they were already equipped, 

[00:27:16] Jamala Rogers: you know, some common sense or, you know, talk with somebody they knew in the science were pretty much left on their own.

[00:27:23] What was your opinion about what was going on nationwide 

[00:27:27] Cecily Myart-Cruz: about the kind of preparation? Yeah, I would agree. I mean, [00:27:30] especially in the South and it, you know, places where you have a GOP, you know, stronghold where they’re like, they don’t care. Get back to work. Um, and, uh, come in. So I do agree, uh, because I have several friends that teach in, in, in the south and they were like, we’re not hearing anything like they’re just leaving us here to die.

[00:27:55] And that’s really sad to think about. Um, the [00:28:00] bright spot for us here is. Um, I did a, a zoom like radio show kind of, uh, well, not radio show, but like a video, um, every week, so to update the members, try to, you know, make them feel some way connected to what was going on and give them, this is what we’ve been talking about with the superintendent.

[00:28:27] This is what’s going on in the district. These are [00:28:30] the upcoming things. Um, here’s what’s happening. Here are the COVID numbers. Like we told it every week so that, um, our folks felt connected because that was a big, uh, that’s the big punchline is feeling connected when you’re so isolated. You know, imagine if you lived by yourself.

[00:28:55] And you’re doing this COVID thing all alone and you have no [00:29:00] family there. It’s really, it can be really, um, it’s, it’s just, it’s an isolating feeling. Yeah. 

[00:29:09] Bianca Cunningham: And I remember tuning into those, um, I would say Cecily, you are like part of like what I call like the new school of union leadership where, you know, the transparency, the connection with members, um, the really wanting to like have folks feel like this is a collective project.

[00:29:26] I feel like you have really been. spearheading that effort. And [00:29:30] we thank God have seen, you know, other union leaders get on board with their union since then. So I think that you’re like really leading the pack and have been on that new type of unionism that we all talk about. 

[00:29:43] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Well, I appreciate that. I mean, because I mean, You have to be transparent, right?

[00:29:48] Um, I, I’m accountable to my members. Uh, just, just yesterday I was out at, you know, I did two school site visits. We do school site [00:30:00] visits all the time because we want to stay connected. We want to hear what the membership is saying and no school is too small. No school is too big for us. to get out to the schools.

[00:30:13] And, you know, I had a, you know, a couple of folks say like our school is so tiny and you came anyway. And it’s like, it doesn’t matter. You’re, you’re, you’re a UTLA school. So we have to be there and we need to hear, you know, I want to know if folks are [00:30:30] thinking, you know, Hey, you’re doing a great job. These are things.

[00:30:34] Can you start doing this or so forth? I want to hear that feedback or look, you’re not doing enough. Because of this, this, this. I want to hear it all. The good, bad, the ugly. I want to hear it all because that’s how we make a well oiled machine here at UTLA. We’ve got to hear from our members. We’ve got to hear from the community.

[00:30:57] And most importantly, we must hear [00:31:00] from the students. Well, 

[00:31:03] Jamala Rogers: Bianca talked about the new leadership that you represent, but I also know that being, 

[00:31:09] Cecily Myart-Cruz: uh, with that 

[00:31:11] Jamala Rogers: kind of, uh, leadership, uh, as you say, it comes with all kinds 

[00:31:15] Cecily Myart-Cruz: of threats and, and, 

[00:31:17] Jamala Rogers: and what have you. So I’m thinking about, you know, the, the lonely lightning rod part of it, because as a woman and a woman of color, you’re going to get, triple, uh, what 

[00:31:28] Cecily Myart-Cruz: a white male [00:31:30] would get in that position.

[00:31:31] And then based on your politics, 

[00:31:33] Jamala Rogers: the kind of boldness that you approach your, your position, that brings some, you know, unwanted 

[00:31:40] Cecily Myart-Cruz: scrutiny. And I just wonder what is that like, and what is your support system like around you in terms of the team that you assemble? Um, you know, I knew, you know, running for this position that it could come with.

[00:31:57] You know, here I am. I’m the [00:32:00] first, you know, black Latina woman running. Our union is almost 54 years old or young, however we see it. And there’s only been three women, 1970, 1990, and 2020. In a profession that is mostly women. Um, and so, like, what? And, yeah, I mean, like, When I won in [00:32:30] 2020, I had people say, you know, congratulations.

[00:32:33] Now get the F back to work and, and sign their name with their school on it. And I was like, Oh, okay. We’re doing it like that. Okay. Um, and so, but. When I talk about systemic racism, when I talk about racialized capitalism, when I talk about those things, then there’s a different ire that comes, um, that my [00:33:00] white predecessor did not deal with.

[00:33:03] He could say those things and not get letters and not get emails and not get phone calls, um, because he’s a white, he was a white male. Um, for myself, I say it and then it’s like, they, they want to put, you know, the, the horns on me and, and so forth. And, you know, I’ve seen all kinds of things that they’ve done.

[00:33:28] And [00:33:30] I still keep pushing forward because one thing that I know for sure is that When I speak, I speak, uh, from the ancestors. The ancestors are the, are the ones propelling me forward. And what I’ve told my son, you know, I mean, I, we just, I was going to, uh, uh, a talk at UCLA, uh, with 300 students, uh, in the labor studies.

[00:33:57] And a woman, you know, yelled out my [00:34:00] name. She’s driving her Tesla, yelled out my name, started taking out her phone and. And, uh, taking pictures and taking video and she is cursing me out about the pandemic. It is you. It’s your effing trash. She called me the C word. I mean, just everything. And, and here I am walking with my 13 year old kid, you know, um, and there’s no, I mean, like you’re not going to run like, um, but we’re walking cause I’m [00:34:30] trying to get to this class.

[00:34:31] And. Um, this is what we’re, I mean, complete berated, you know, for, you know, five minutes this woman is screaming like a lunatic outside of her car. And uh, my son said like, mom, do you get, do you get this happening to you often? And I was like, well, yeah. And so how I use that in my talk with the students is like.[00:35:00] 

[00:35:00] If I have someone hanging out their Tesla window and like honking and going nuts, I mean like literally like rabid, um, then I must be on the right effing track. 

[00:35:15] Bianca Cunningham: You hit that nerve. Right. 

[00:35:19] Cecily Myart-Cruz: I must be. And that means that the ancestors have not stirred me wrong. and they’re going to continue to uplift me. You [00:35:30] asked about my support system.

[00:35:31] I have the ancestors. I do have, you know, uh, the executive board. I have some officers, um, here at UTLA. I have my partner, um, and he’s fantastic, uh, that holds me down and, and my mom and my son. Um, you know, obviously I have lots of friends who know, Uh, what this work is, but I had to ask my family, do you want me to run [00:36:00] again?

[00:36:00] Cause this is my last term. Did you want me to run again or, or should I go back and teach at Emerson middle school? And, uh, you know, they encouraged me to, to run again for this last term. They said, because you know, you’ve, they feel I’m making a difference. Um, and I know that You know, when I think about our students and I think about the communities [00:36:30] we serve, that is an awesome task.

[00:36:33] And I don’t take it lightly. And when people are like, Oh, you’re doing such great work. It’s like, This is a collective. We do this as a collective. And, and even I’ll go back to the woman in the Tesla, even when the woman is yelling, I have to like, because, you know, other people are like, I would have said this, this, and, you know, I’m, I’m a Scorpio.

[00:36:55] Bianca is too, like, I [00:37:00] know how it can be, but how I. Orient myself always is that I have in my mind that it’s about power with and not power over. And so when I’m looking at direct pieces, I have to think about power with. So how am I building power with folks [00:37:30] and not exuding power over folks? So I’m always Making sure that my positioning is correct.

[00:37:41] I’m making, I’m always making sure and, and Uh, Cornel West always says you cannot lead the people if you don’t love the people. And even when the people are not as nice, you still gotta love them. You gotta love them through it. [00:38:00] So that’s, those are the things that keep me going to propel me forward and really hit on the mark of a transformational change.

[00:38:15] Bianca Cunningham: I love that. I love 

[00:38:16] Cecily Myart-Cruz: that.

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[00:39:14] Bianca Cunningham: I was thinking about when I first met you, I think the first time I met you was at a convention. I’m not gonna name the convention , but it was a political convention and I remember you looking around and being like. What is this that I got myself [00:39:30] into? Um, I just want to talk about whether like you see yourself.

[00:39:34] I mean, I know like that you’re like a beloved legend, um, in powerful person on the left. Um, do you see yourself as part of like the left? And can you talk about like, what that’s like to identify? as a leftist, if that’s what you do identify as, and be in this, like, you know, position that you are, like, as president of the Teachers Union.

[00:39:56] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Yeah, I mean, I do feel like I, you know, I [00:40:00] swing, obviously, I swing left always. Um, but I don’t think of myself as, you know, this powerful. A lot of people say, like, oh, you’re so powerful. You’re this, you’re that. I’m Cecily. Um, and I’m a mama first. Um, I’m a middle school teacher and I’m a union activist. And, um, one of the things that, and I, I, I have to say it all the time because we have a [00:40:30] student group here in, in LA called students deserve, uh, on Instagram, it’s LA underscore students deserve.

[00:40:38] And I always give them a plug, uh, because they are the ones that keep me. grounded. Um, the students, um, you know, my students from way back and, and these are older people now, right? Uh, they keep me grounded to make sure that I’m doing [00:41:00] what I’m supposed to be doing. And what I’m supposed to be doing is not only advocating on behalf.

[00:41:09] It’s about the collectivism when I work with students, I want to hear what they have to say, and how can I leverage power to be able to get what they need, and not afraid to sit in a [00:41:30] passenger seat while the students or the community or the parents are driving. A lot of unions are like, I got to be the leader.

[00:41:39] I have to be in the lead. I don’t have to be in the lead. I want to know how I can assist, how I can help, how I can advocate, how I can use my voice. And if I am doing that, then I am good. But that also comes [00:42:00] with the ancestors, right? Like, you know, my father is an ancestor, you know, and my, I, you know, a lot of people ask me like, how did you, how did you first get started?

[00:42:11] Well, The school that my son goes to now, uh, I graduated from there in 1990. And in 1989, our teachers were on strike and they were out there striking. And I remember jumping the fence to walk with my teachers. And I remember [00:42:30] my principal. Yelling, saying, get your ass back over the fence because you’re over here and they’re out there.

[00:42:40] And if you don’t, you’re going to have demerits and detention and I’m calling your father. And I like, you know, for a split second, I got nervous because I was like, oh, no, uh, call my dad, Lord. And I just say, yeah, call my dad. And my dad [00:43:00] came up to the school and, uh, you know, my dad, you know, black man, strong, uh, powerful, uh, he, he asked me, he said, Cess, uh, do you believe in what you were doing?

[00:43:17] And I said, yes, they are fighting for myself and my peers. And he turned and looked at. My [00:43:30] principal, Ms. Collins and said, there will be no demerits and detention. And this conversation is over and we walked out. And so to me, I feel like that agency that my father allowed me to have, or that we co authored together in that moment.

[00:43:58] Um, [00:44:00] that’s what helps me figure out am I on the right track and, you know, having, you know, friends that are like, you know, Hey, make sure you stay humble. Make sure that you are grounded. Make sure. And, and there’s never a time where I feel like I have too lofty of an idea. I’ve had many, many, many folks say you’re too big for your britches.

[00:44:27] Um, you’re, the [00:44:30] demands that y’all are making at UTLA are impossible. All of these things. And I say, so what? I’m glad that they’re lofty and we’re going to win each and every one of them. And we showed that this past March and April of Actual solidarity when people talk about solidarity and I don’t know, like people are like, Oh [00:45:00] yeah, I can walk a picket line.

[00:45:01] I can walk a picket line. Well, it’s more than walking a picket line, right? It’s actually, are you willing to put your body on the line? Are you willing to put your body on the line and you don’t get anything out of it? How many people can say that? I don’t think very many. Was it hard 

[00:45:22] Bianca Cunningham: to get the union on board to show solidarity for that support, the support staff?

[00:45:27] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Nope. We had a couple [00:45:30] of, uh, we had a couple of members, um, say, um, they didn’t strike with us in 2019. Why are we doing that? And I was like, stop. These are our most marginalized workers. These are mostly black and brown women. These are the ones. That are next to you, the special ed [00:46:00] assistants that are changing diapers alongside you and they’re asking us to walk with them.

[00:46:09] We gotta walk. We gotta walk. And we did a joint solidarity rally together and we had over 65, 000 people in the streets wearing red and purple. And that was just the solidarity rally. And, uh, their executive [00:46:30] director, Max Adias, said we’re going on strike the 20, uh, 21st, 22nd and 23rd of March, a three day.

[00:46:42] And what I saw from my members was beautiful. Um, they took SEIU workers. Showed them how to laminate their signs, make sure that they bought, you know, those [00:47:00] latex, uh, dishwashing gloves so that when you holding the sign, it does the water because it was supposed to be raining. That’s the only way you tell a knows how to strike in the rain.

[00:47:15] putting down your arm and they said, we got it. We have it under control. And, um, I just saw just a coming together. In a way that I had never seen before. The [00:47:30] 2019 strike was transformational. This strike, um, just blew the covers off of that. It, it, it was galactic. Um, and that’s what I would call it. It was absolutely galactic.

[00:47:45] I mean, I had a couple of, uh, teachers that said, my kid, uh, is living in South Africa. Another person, my kid is living in Australia, and they’re watching us, [00:48:00] um, on strike right now. Like they were, it was international news. Um, we were, we ended up being one of the CNN, 10. And that’s something I used in my sixth grade class, our CNN 10, uh, top thing of the day.

[00:48:19] Like, I was just like, what? Oh my God. It’s like mind blowing. But the work that we did. And when they, [00:48:30] we, we went on strike Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, they got there. Settlement on Friday, and they won big at the table. We hadn’t we hadn’t won anything yet. We were still bargaining, and it took another month and a half to get to get where we needed to go.

[00:48:51] And when we did, it was just so beautiful. But Max told me if y’all end up striking, [00:49:00] our people want to strike with you. So it was just like that. solidarity moment. We had never worked together and now we’re doing things together. It just it was monumental. And, um, it’s emotional because the work that we were able to do together really defines who we are as [00:49:30] leaders.

[00:49:30] I think when you talked 

[00:49:37] Jamala Rogers: about causing before you decided to, uh, run again, I think it was appropriate, particularly checking in with family because they have to watch what you go through. But I certainly am glad that you made that decision because when I look at the culture of unions, you would need that extra term in order to, Do more [00:50:00] transformation and leave a lasting, uh, uh, mark on that union.

[00:50:04] And when I look at the culture of unions, there’s too much of the, you know, replication of, you know, sort of capitalist 

[00:50:12] Cecily Myart-Cruz: model. Uh, and, and so to have a. a change agent in that role, uh, 

[00:50:18] Jamala Rogers: it is, you know, has to be inspiring. So when you look across the country and other locals who, you know, are a little bit stodgy in the way that they move, they, you know, they don’t seem to be [00:50:30] recruiting members or, or involving members because they really would like for no member to be there so they could do whatever the hell they want to do.

[00:50:38] Uh, 

[00:50:38] Cecily Myart-Cruz: but that doesn’t lead to 

[00:50:40] Jamala Rogers: union strength. And I think that’s one of the reasons why We haven’t been able, as a teacher movement, to really garner the kind of respect that I think we need 

[00:50:50] Cecily Myart-Cruz: and deserve. Yeah, I would agree with that because, um, sometimes I feel people are scared. Um, one, they don’t know, um, what to [00:51:00] do.

[00:51:00] Um, two, they’ve stayed too long and then they become gatekeepers. Um, and so those gatekeepers, I’ve always said, we need to rid ourselves of the gatekeepers. Um, and for me, you know, um, my last day is going to be June 30th, 2026. I’m not running for anything else in UTLA, um, because we have the people here that will be able to make the [00:51:30] next transformation.

[00:51:32] And That’s all we need. We have to, the union has to keep, um, building upon itself and that’s what I saw in 2019. A lot of people say that was a great strike and it was. It was transformational in lots of ways. But if you talk to members. Members did not feel connected. You’ll have members say like, we didn’t get anything.

[00:51:57] And it’s like, well, um, and so what [00:52:00] we did differently with this bargain, we actually did listening sessions. Uh, we did listening sessions at every school site to say exactly what they wanted. What they wanted to see changed. We also did three or four town halls with parents. We also did town halls with students and Um, they also came up with their list, wishlist of demands, and then we brought all [00:52:30] three of those pieces together and took a look at those recurring themes and community schools came up and healthy green schools and immigrant defense support.

[00:52:42] And those were the, just the common good things, uh, that we were talking about. Right. Um. And just like, of course, salary and pay, uh, and, um, class size and mental health supports, and all of these other things that came [00:53:00] up. When we put it all together, our Beyond Recovery contract campaign was 159 pages long.

[00:53:08] And our district looked at that and was like, what the hell is this? I don’t know. We’re not doing this. You talking about common good? These are not permissible. You know how they tell you. These are not permissible in the scope of bargaining. And it’s like, yeah, well, we bargaining this. This is what the parents said.

[00:53:22] This is what the students said. This is what the educators said. This is what we’re talking about. And then they didn’t want to, they didn’t want to, they didn’t want to deal with [00:53:30] it. And then we did something even more innovative. We did an expanded bargaining team. So we just said, rank and file folks, you want to be over here because on the last go around a lot of those folks that ended up on our bargain this time, they’re the ones that were throwing the bombs.

[00:53:46] So bring them in. folks in so you can see how your district talks down to you. So we ended up having 85 bargainers and so we had 85 [00:54:00] bargainers and we all were there. I don’t sit on the bargain. The members do and really pushed that conversation forward. It was fantastic. And when it all was said and done after every session, everyone came together to say, okay, what were the highlights?

[00:54:21] What were the things? What were the things outstanding? What did the district say? What did we say? And then put out a [00:54:30] video messages. They were now the conduits going back to their steering committee talking about let me tell you about this district and so forth and so on. We had so many people participate, 24, 25, 000 people, uh, participated in voting for this contract and, and at a 94.

[00:54:54] 7 percent rate. That’s fantastic. [00:55:00] That is fantastic and we won’t do it, uh, different again. We will do this model and I’m going to tell you right now. 85, we’re probably going to have 125 people sit in as, uh, bargainers. 

[00:55:19] Bianca Cunningham: Yeah. So I’m so glad that you brought up LA students deserve Cecily. I think that a lot of people probably don’t know, like what the trajectory has been with that group.

[00:55:29] A [00:55:30] lot of folks didn’t know that the 2019 strike, you know, one of the main issues was around that, that random searches of the backpacks and you know, how that, how that group has just like. You know, grown and like, I think it speaks to like the way that you all engage students and really put their voices first.

[00:55:47] And so, you know, I’m always telling the story about students deserve, you know, you all taking up that issue in the strike, but then even going a step further, you know, in 2020 with the reallocation of the officer [00:56:00] resources. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about like how that fits together and in your role and.

[00:56:06] And what that work has looked like. Yes. 

[00:56:09] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Um, so LA students deserve, uh, like I said, Instagram LA underscore students deserve. Those are my babies. I love them so much, um, because of the work that they do. Um, conversations with, with other students, uh, the organizing that they have [00:56:30] done and they have just grown.

[00:56:32] So they have always talked about the criminalization of youth and why we must end it. And for us as educators, it is not about, you know, the safety, my personal safety at the school site, because I mean, I don’t, I, for me, I have not had good interactions with the police. Students are saying what they don’t want to see.

[00:56:58] And instead, [00:57:00] what they do want to see is mental health resources. They want college counselors. They want to make sure that they have the right courses to go farther. Right? So all of these things. Take a step back. 2019. They were out there every night after the strike hitting up some, the superintendent’s house, uh, some privatizers homes.

[00:57:25] They were out there in the rain at night. Uh, they were a part [00:57:30] of the freedom school and their issue was ending random searches. We did not realize that in 2019. We could not get it in our, uh, contract, but it did not matter. We still kept up. The students still kept going and our strike was January of 2019.

[00:57:54] They were able to achieve. No more random searches on [00:58:00] June 19th, 2019. That was such a beautiful day. And I wasn’t the president at that time. I was the vice president and I’ve just been in awe of the work that they’ve done cut to now after George Floyd was murdered, uh, they were. Talking about what our folks actually need, trauma informed care, community schools, wraparound services, mental health supports, [00:58:30] college and career readiness.

[00:58:31] They wanted to see that. And our school police budget was 70 million a year. And what the students said, yes, what the students said was we want some of that money. We want that money to go to black students. We want that money to go to us and how to lift us up. And so that’s what they did. Uh, they held a [00:59:00] campaign.

[00:59:00] They asked you to LA, can you join with us? Absolutely. Of course, we have some members that are like we need the police. We have to have the police. And what I have said all the time is what are the students saying? And if we cannot listen to what the students are saying, how effective does that make me as an educator?

[00:59:27] Now, are there violent things that happen at [00:59:30] school? Yes. Do we have a right to address those? Yes. Does it have to be police based? No. And if we had the right resources for restorative practices, uh, safe passages. Then we could actually mitigate some of that discipline and all of those things. But we’ve not had the money and the resources or the will to actually do that.[01:00:00] 

[01:00:00] So those are some of those pieces and I just, I’m so proud of them. And I’m so proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them because They have just demanded having a police free. LAUSD and I support that. 

[01:00:20] Bianca Cunningham: That’s so awesome. And I think, you know, part of like what, when I’m hearing you talk about, can we at the basis base level as educators just listen to students, you [01:00:30] know, understanding that race, class, socioeconomic status, you know, hat place.

[01:00:34] So plays a part in how we all experience safety, um, and how we all experience, you know, even interactions with. You know, police officers and I know one of the things, you know, as I work with educator unions, you know, around the country, a lot of the things, you know, that I hear oftentimes are like, you know, we’ve got to figure out a way to retain, um, you know, black educators and, and, and administrative staff and, and, [01:01:00] and principals, et cetera.

[01:01:01] Um, everybody’s trying to figure it out. I think this is like one of what you’re talking about is like one of the reasons why it’s so important to have people that have that lens. Um, to put on, what do you think the union’s role in, in, in that is, uh, in the retention, you know, like in the retention and recruitment of, you know, black educators, 

[01:01:20] Cecily Myart-Cruz: more black educators.

[01:01:20] It is our, it’s a part of our job as someone who advocates on behalf of students. Here we are as educators, but we don’t want to listen to [01:01:30] students. Right. I’m sorry. We have to do a better job in leaning in and gleaning and putting. my educator, like angst, my educator self aside for a moment to actually say like, okay, students are saying this, that might not be ideal, but they’re asking for that.

[01:01:58] So how [01:02:00] can we achieve it? What are the pitfalls? What do we need to do? Who do we need to bring in? Like, don’t tell me that we can’t do it. I don’t believe that we can. And we do have to have more conversations with our members to flesh out some of those pieces. Because I’m going to tell you, in certain [01:02:30] neighborhoods, they don’t have to deal with police.

[01:02:32] Right. And why is it that the Black and Brown neighborhoods forever have to deal with the police? when you have 10 and 12 cop cars on campus. For what? Like, it makes no sense. And I can tell you one of our historically black, uh, high schools, Dorsey High School, used to have 15 cop cars, um, on campus at any [01:03:00] one time.

[01:03:01] Wow. And now they’re a community school and they’re a black student achievement school. And the difference that is made when I have students come up to me and say, I have, I have educators, I have mental health resource folks that look like me. That makes me feel good. 

[01:03:28] Bianca Cunningham: That’s the work. That’s [01:03:30] the work.

[01:03:30] Absolutely. Um, so what Jamal and I were talking in our last episode about general strike, right? Um, I’m a tick tock person. I’m on tick tock. I’m, I’m a part of all the tick tock, you know, organizers that Obama, uh, shouted out. And like, one of the things that the kids talk about a lot is like general strike, you know, as people are becoming politically awake and aware.

[01:03:54] Um, becoming fed up, you know, with the, the capitalist system and trying to [01:04:00] figure out how can we exert power as a collective of people right over the government or over these corporations. Um, and you know, general strike, you know, I come from, you know, organizing. in labor, which is like, we talk about strikes all the time, but we talk about strikes in like a serious way.

[01:04:16] Right. Strike is not like a sick out or strike. It’s not like you just call out or you just, you know, whatever. And I feel like oftentimes when people bring up general strikes, it’s like, it gets immediately dismissed with like, yeah, but you. We don’t have the power [01:04:30] to organize for a general strike. I think being in the room with you was the first time I heard a serious leader, like, actually say, like, we could do a general strike.

[01:04:40] And I, like, my ears just perked up like, OK, well, this is like a very serious, you know, educated, you know, person who knows, like, the balances of power and is, like, very aware. of, you know, where the limits are and like to hear you say it just made me feel so encouraged. And so, you know, and like then hearing [01:05:00] like UAW say like everybody line up your contracts, 2028 is the year.

[01:05:04] I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about General Strike and like What are the things that you’re thinking of whenever you’re saying that you feel like, you know, it’s possible for us to do a general strike? 

[01:05:15] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Yeah, I, I agree that, uh, I think, I think what we do need is a general strike to kind of shut it down to, to re.

[01:05:25] configure, uh, the lines of power and to [01:05:30] actually show that we could do that. Um, here in California, we have a group called CACS, C A C S, uh, California Alliance for Community Schools, and it’s really the large urban, um, teachers unions in the state. And we’ve been talking about. Coming together to, to either have a, have rolling strikes or things like that.

[01:05:54] We’re always looking at points to, uh, put our, uh, contract [01:06:00] line, our contract up, um, and we saw that we’ve done it twice with, uh, Oakland, uh, because we went out in January, Oakland went out in February. We went out in March and Oakland went out in May of 2023. So we’re always, you know, working together to try to, to push the envelope in lots of different ways.

[01:06:25] I, I feel like again, it’s about the wheel, [01:06:30] right? So if people are willing to organize, to have Cogent conversations to get past what I call F U D, fear, uncertainty and doubt. Then you could do something, but it has to be, you have to start at the basal local level. Um, are you, have [01:07:00] you spoken politically with your members?

[01:07:05] Have you started to radicalize them? In their political education, in the naming of bad actors, you got to start there first. You can’t just say like, Oh, we’re going out on strike today. Cause people are like, well, like you have to build this and we can do it. But people have to have the will and to like, [01:07:30] really be systematic around, okay, everybody’s got to do one on one conversations.

[01:07:37] Everybody’s got to visit site. And it’s not just the unions, but like UAW, right? Going to the different plants, uh, Starbucks, are you talking, are those baristas talking with other baristas? Like, how is this going? Are y’all talking, you know, with baristas at [01:08:00] Fields or Pete’s? Uh, what, you know, like, are we doing some of that cross pollination?

[01:08:07] Um, is that happening? And, you know, are we talking with, you know, the university professors? Are we talking with the community college folks? Are we talking with other folks? And if so, then, uh, we can get there. But we have to name the bad actors. And all those bad actors [01:08:30] play in every single one of our, our, our places.

[01:08:36] So that, that’s one. Um, but also the political education. What happened in New Orleans can happen absolutely anywhere. 

[01:08:46] Bianca Cunningham: Say what happened in New Orleans really quick, though. So, 

[01:08:48] Cecily Myart-Cruz: in New Orleans, there are no more public schools. They’re all charterized. And so, you know, when, that’s disaster [01:09:00] capitalism. Right?

[01:09:01] Naomi Klein writes about that. In the shock doctrine, like this doesn’t happen overnight. It has been planned. When you have Betsy DeVos and Trump and John Arnold, and you’re starting to peel back and Eli Broad and the Walton Foundation and the Gates Foundation, you start to peel back the onion. These actors play in all of the different [01:09:30] realms.

[01:09:31] Uh, the Koch brothers about to, you know, get into the, you know, into this primary backing Nikki Haley, right. Um, and they have more money than, you know, someone said they have more money than God. And so it’s like, okay, so that kind of stuff is happening. And then when we don’t hold the fire to corporate Democrats.

[01:09:56] Okay. Uh, then, you know, [01:10:00] uh, I’m sure they don’t want to have a general strike, but, um, I don’t think it’s up to them. I think it’s up to the people. And if the people want a general strike, then the people got to work and we got to put it together. And put it in motion, and then we can actually shut this shit down.

[01:10:19] You got my vote. 

[01:10:21] Bianca Cunningham: For whatever. 

[01:10:24] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Fine, I’m fine. But 

[01:10:26] Jamala Rogers: again, I also know the work that has to go into it, if we just have it [01:10:30] then, 

[01:10:30] Cecily Myart-Cruz: half the folks are gonna be, first of all, personally unprepared, financially personally unprepared, and then, uh, ideologically and politically unprepared. So, yeah, we gotta do the work.

[01:10:43] Bianca Cunningham: That seems like a great place to end, Cecily. That was a mic drop moment. 

[01:10:47] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Yeah. Happy templates.

[01:10:57] Bianca Cunningham: Our thanks again to Cecily Maia [01:11:00] Cruz for joining us. The show will be off for the next few weeks and will return in January for the final two episodes of this season. If you’ve been enjoying this. season of Black Work Talk and want to hear more from Jamala and I, leave a rating and review wherever you’re listening to the show, um, or show financial support by becoming a monthly patron at patreon.

[01:11:19] com slash black work talk. 

[01:11:23] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Black Work Talk is published by 

[01:11:25] Jamala Rogers: Convergence. A magazine for radical insights. Our executive producer [01:11:30] for Black Work Talk is Zia Morrow Carpino, and Josh Elstro is our producer. Bianca Cunningham is my co host and I’m 

[01:11:39] Cecily Myart-Cruz: Jamala Rogers. Thanks for listening.

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