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Organized Labor and School Reform

This project examines the potential of unions to promote educational justice.

In Los Angeles, many members of low-wage service sector unions are also parents of children in public schools.  A disproportionate number of these workers live in neighborhoods where the local public schools provide inadequate educational resources.  In recent years, sectors of organized labor such as the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 (Justice for Janitors), have demonstrated the ability to win important gains in salary and benefits for their membership.  This project explores the potential role of low-wage service unions to use their organizing and political skills to promote educational justice.  It considers whether the participation of low-wage sector unions in educational reform can: (1) build the power and capacity of both the union and its members and (2) expand educational opportunity for the children of union members.  

Over the past two years, IDEA researchers have begun to:  

  1. develop a profile of low-wage service sector members and the schools their children attend; 
  2. examine union members’ involvement in their children’s schools and their interest in school reform; 
  3. explore how various sectors of labor and community groups look upon the potential role of service sector unions in educational reform.

Alongside these research efforts, IDEA has worked with the Service Employees International Union Local 1877 in Los Angeles to design and implement a series of educational workshops for its members.  These workshops provide 1877 members with information about how the school system works, how parents can support their children’s path to college, and how parents can take action to improve conditions in their children’s schools. 

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