Tensions Between LAUSD, Teachers Union Rise as Strike Vote Continues

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With Los Angeles Unified teachers considering a possible strike, tensions between the district and union continued mounting Tuesday, with LAUSD officials accusing the union of bad-faith bargaining.

The move came one day after the union accused the district of interfering in the teachers’ ongoing strike-authorization vote.

LAUSD attorney David Holmquist said Tuesday the district had filed an unfair practice charge with the state Public Employment Relations Board against United Teachers Los Angeles.

“During the current round of bargaining, UTLA engaged in take-it-or- leave-it bargaining, making virtually no compromises toward reaching an agreement for the better part of 16 months,” Holmquist said. “The district was able to reach a reasonable compromise with more than half our employees represented by unions.

“However, UTLA openly talked about a strike long before the parties even began negotiations, let along reached impasse,” Holmquest said.

He also faulted the union for holding a strike-authorization vote — which began Thursday — before any mediation sessions have been held.

On Monday night, UTLA filed an unfair labor practice charge with PERB, accusing the district of unlawfully interfering with the union’s strike-authorization vote and failing to provide financial documents.

“The district repeatedly has refused to respond to union information requests, in particular when those requests demand that the district provide evidence to back up its unsupported assertions at the bargaining table and in public that the district is unable to afford UTLA proposals,” according to the union’s complaint.

The union also alleged that the district, while failing to respond to union public-information requests for financial documents, quickly released disciplinary documents from UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl’s personnel file to some Southland media outlets in response to records requests.

With the two sides in a standoff, the labor negotiations are awaiting state mediation, which is now set to begin Sept. 27. UTLA has accused the district of delaying the mediation, saying a mediator was appointed Aug. 2 and “immediately offered mediation dates in mid-late August and early September.”

The district has denied any such delay tactic, saying it accepted the Sept. 27 date that was offered by the PERB mediator.

Mayor Eric Garcetti last week said he was willing to meet with both sides in the dispute in hopes of brokering a deal that would avoid a strike. LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday he welcomed the offer, saying a strike would “harm students, families and the communities we serve.”

UTLA was less receptive to the offer. The union thanked Garcetti for his offer, but said, “At this point, UTLA believes the best way to get an agreement is through state mediation. … We believe a state mediator can help and there is no reason for such a delay.”

Salary is one part of the division between the district and the union. United Teachers Los Angeles has asked for a 6.5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2016, with the possibility of future raises in a contract that would run through June 30, 2020.

The district has offered 6 percent, stretched out over a three-year period. Other district employee unions already have settled for about 6 percent, spread out over several years in various ways, but they could be entitled to additional compensation if the teachers get more.

Strike-authorization votes are a standard pressure tactic and do not automatically mean a strike will occur.

The teachers’ 69-page proposal covers many areas besides salary, including changes that would add greater protections for teachers who want to hold on to their current assignments at schools and that would result in additional hiring to bring down class sizes and extend nursing and counseling services at campuses.

The district has contended that the union’s offer would increase the LAUSD’s existing $500 million deficit in the current school year by another $813 million. It also claims that the district’s existing $1.2 billion reserve fund cannot be used to cover the union demands since it is already being used to offset the existing budget shortfall.

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Tensions Between LAUSD, Teachers Union Rise as Strike Vote Continues
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Tensions Between LAUSD, Teachers Union Rise as Strike Vote Continues
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With Los Angeles Unified teachers considering strike, tensions between district and union continued mounting, with LAUSD officials accusing union of bad-faith bargaining.
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LAWestMedia.com