Politics & Policy

The Los Angeles Union with a Culture of Racism and Anti-Israel Politics

Los Angeles public school system teachers hold a rally at City Hall after going on strike in Los Angeles, Calif., January 14, 2019. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
The United Teachers Los Angeles is accused of racist bullying of its critics, as it dabbles needlessly in foreign-policy advocacy.

Los Angeles teachers can’t promise they’ll return to classrooms in the fall — such a guarantee, they say, would require debates about COVID, single-payer health care, immigration, income inequality, policing, and more. It’s all very complicated, apparently.

And yet there was the L.A. teachers’ union leadership stepping bravely into foreign policy as 4,000 Hamas rockets roared out of the densely populated Gaza toward civilians inside Israel. In June, several chapter chairpersons of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) approved a resolution demanding that the United States end all aid to Israel and urging the Biden administration to leash the United States to the international movement to boycott and sanction Israel. The full union will consider the resolution in September.

Foreign policy is apparently so much simpler than reopening L.A.’s schools.

That’s only the most recent example of outrageous political behavior by a union that systematically fails to educate — and therefore punishes — L.A.’s poor, and savages those who object. Last week, the parent watchdog group UTLA Uncensored released evidence — some of it provided by increasingly anxious teachers ­— showing that top union leaders frequently demonstrate repulsive behavior when they think no one is watching.

Take, for example, an ethnic-studies meeting that the United Teachers Los Angeles hosted in April, featuring a speaker who screamed “Fuck Israel” alongside a protester yelling “All white people need to die!” during a protest against a screening of a pro-Israel film. During the same meeting, union president Cecily Myart-Cruz suggested that the Museum of Tolerance, a Holocaust museum in Los Angeles, was an enemy of the union and UTLA’s position on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. When participants questioned this, screenshots indicate, they were removed from the online event.

Or consider the teachings of Soni Lloyd of the Los Angeles Unified School District. He ran for UTLA president last year. Screenshots show him boasting about one of his favorite educational-tools assignments: requiring his students to “rewrite the preamble of the slaveowner’s constitution.” UTLA Uncensored also shared images of purported social-media posts that graduates of Lloyd’s classes made to demonstrate the harmful impact that teachers like him have on students. Among the posts were those created apparently by LAUSD grads disparaging the U.S. Constitution, supporting terrorism and rioting, and calling for the downfall of America. One of the graduates even commented on the posts, urging readers to follow his You Tube Channel, The Camera and Sickle, for more of his musings.

Perhaps most offensive is a series of anonymous posts attacking Maryam Qudrat, an L.A. mom who has called for school reopenings. We can’t know the identities of the authors behind those posts, but their talking points are identical to those of the union’s leaders’.

Qudrat’s story is illustrative. An Afghan immigrant, professor of engineering, and single mom of a child in a Los Angeles Unified school, Qudrat received an email from a teachers’-union representative asking about her race. The rep said the information was needed for the UTLA’s database of union critics whose names had appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Qudrat blew the whistle, writing and speaking about what she called the attempt of the teachers’ union to incite “racial war.”

Now, Qudrat would seem to have all the qualities of a teachers’-union hero — a woman, a minority member, a single mom, an immigrant who teaches high-end science in one of the state’s prestigious public universities. But the armor of identity meant nothing to Qudrat’s apparently union-allied antagonists. They pounded her with encrypted communications — email, texts, social-media posts — deploying racist and sexist slurs and, in classic schoolyard fashion, brutal appraisals of her (and her son’s) physical appearance. She’s “a slimeball farsi native” and one of the “monkeys [who] are the ones antagonizing the school board.” “Your PHD isn’t worth my toilet paper.” Most of the hits are like this — riddled with typos and leveraging the laziest, gynecologically informed putdowns that the anonymous posters could recall from junior high. “We know where you’re at,” read emails to her and to family members. She is, worst of all, “white” and “privilege” [sic]. In emails to California State University, Long Beach, UTLA supporters attempted to have her fired.

Sadly, even the union’s own members aren’t safe from their leaders’ hateful speech. Another series of screenshots available from UTLA Uncensored shows purported social-media posts in which Myart-Cruz stokes fear and division among parents by claiming that some district teachers are white supremacists. “Parents of Black and brown children really need to pay closer attention this week to their kids’ classes,” she said. “Remember 55% of white women voted for Trump and they are nearly 80% of the teaching profession. Some of them will take their anger out on kids.”

Myart-Cruz provided precisely zero examples of Trump-supporting teachers taking out their anger on kids. But reports show that UTLA members are getting wise to her opinion of them and directing their anger in the most effective way possible: by dropping membership in the union and taking their hefty union dues with them. One teacher summed up her decision to leave the union simply: “I feel unsafe as a Jew in this UTLA” because of its support for the BDSM movement and the Palestinian side in the regional conflict. The Los Angeles Times published a series of letters from members expressing similar anxiety about their safety inside a union run increasingly on heated propaganda about COVID, Israel, white people, and even immigrants such as Maryam Qudrat. It turns out that patriotism isn’t the last refuge of scoundrels, but racism might be.

Chantal Lovell is the communications director at the California Policy Center, an educational nonprofit working to reduce public-sector barriers to freedom. Teachers who want to send a message to United Teachers Los Angeles can drop union membership quickly by visiting MyPayMySay.com.

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