L.A. teachers union sidesteps vote over Israel-Palestinian conflict

People walk in a street.
Pedestrians in Gaza City navigate past debris in late May during recovery work after the 11-day war between Israeli and Gaza military factions.
( Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The union representing Los Angeles teachers stepped back late Thursday from acting on a resolution that would have condemned Israel and supported Palestinians.

Instead, the union’s 250-member governing body overwhelmingly passed a substitute motion to establish voluntary forums for union members to discuss the issue.

The substitute motion was “based on the concern that this is an extremely divisive issue that would seriously damage union unity at a time where we need solidarity in our coming contractual battles,” according to the wording of the resolution.


The result means that the original resolution “cannot be brought back in its current form,” the union said in a statement.

The resolution, prompted by this year’s deadly clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants urged United Teachers Los Angeles to “express our solidarity with the Palestinian people and call for Israel to end bombardment of Gaza.”

The resolution also called for an end to forced relocations from the Palestinian settlement of Sheikh Jarrah, a cutoff of U.S. aid to Israel, and the endorsement of the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against “apartheid in Israel.”

Some critics of Israel praised the resolution as an important political step forward in support of the right of self-determination for Palestinians. Those who criticized the resolution said it was one-sided, insensitive to Jewish students and school employees, and ill-timed during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teacher unions in San Francisco and Seattle have approved similar resolutions.

“The original motion was introduced without considering the repercussions,” said teacher Scott Mandel, a board member who helped organize the opposition. He helped circulate a petition drive that gathered almost 1,000 signatures, he said. He’d warned that many members would resign if the union had taken this step.


The union represents more than 30,000 teachers, nurses, counselors and librarians.

In an email before the day of the meeting, Soni Lloyd, a backer of the original motion, said the outcome was not a complete setback for its supporters.

“One, there was widespread support for human rights in Palestine among UTLA chapter chairs and activists,” Lloyd said. “Two, the forums give us an opportunity to continue to educate others on this topic.”