March 19, 2015 :: 8:05 am Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned teachers today that their salaries will be docked if they skip upcoming faculty meetings as part of a union action, but union officials said their members will not back down.
“Employees who participate in the boycott of required faculty meetings will not be paid for the work time missed,” Cortines said.
He said members of United Teachers Los Angeles is asking its members to boycott faculty meetings set for March 24, April 7 and April 14.
“I am troubled and disappointed that UTLA is urging teachers not to attend these important meetings,” Cortines said. “This action harms the continuity of the educational process at our schools and sends a disturbing message to students, parents and our community.”
The union, however, said the boycotts “are part of our escalating actions to achieve the ‘Schools LA Students Deserve’ and to get the district to offer educators a fair contract.”
“UTLA members have boycotted faculty meetings many times in the past years and we have no intention of backing down now because of threats by Cortines to retaliate against employees who participate,” according to the union.
The union and district are locked in contentious contract negotiations. UTLA has been pushing for a roughly 8.5 percent salary increase for teachers, but the district has offered 5 percent. The union declared an impasse in negotiations last month, meaning a mediator will take part in the talks in hopes of brokering a deal.
Cortines has said offering any more than a 5 percent raise would lead to extensive layoffs throughout the district. The district’s board recently approved the issuance of layoff warning notices for 609 employees, including teachers, counselors and social workers.
Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl has called the layoff threats a scare tactic, and insisted the district has money to pay teachers more money.
Cortines said today he is concerned about the union’s so-called “escalating actions,” saying it appears the union is moving “toward a planned strike against our students, parents and school communities.”
“Nothing could be more detrimental to the extraordinary educational progress that this district has made in recent years,” he said.
Union officials said they are “fighting for smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools, clean and safe schools, improved learning conditions, improved working conditions and fair compensation. These issues are too important to give up on.”
LAUSD teachers’ pay will be docked if they boycott faculty meetings, superintendent says
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1I6jqIp
In this file
photo, LAUSD instructor Edna Esguerra teaches chemistry to a class of 30 students during a summer school session at Chatsworth High School on Friday, July 26, 2013. Photo by Dean Musgrove/Los Angeles Daily News
3/18/15, 8:02 PM PDT | Updated: 3/20 :: Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned teachers Wednesday their pay would be docked if they boycott faculty meetings as directed by their union.
The same strategy was used by union leaders in the run-up to the last strike on LAUSD a quarter-century ago.
Six months before teachers shut down LAUSD’s schools for nine days in May 1989, they boycotted after-school faculty meetings.
The union boycotts, both then and now, were timed to coincide with so-called impasse hearings before the state’s top labor authority. Those hearings are set for March 26, April 6 and April 15. Union leaders based inside schools were told in a memo March 9 to organize boycotts and stage protests March 24, April 7 and April 14. The memo noted the proximity of impasse hearings.
Two months after teachers boycotted the meetings in late 1988, they refused to submit grades early in 1989. The move prompted LAUSD’s superintendent to threaten to withhold paychecks, and union leadership folded.
In a separate letter Wednesday to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, Cortines hints he doesn’t believe the union will stop at three faculty meetings, mentioning “other as yet unstated duties to schools and children to be boycotted as part of UTLA’s self-proclaimed ‘escalating actions.’”
Union leadership was not available for comment Wednesday, spokeswoman Suzanne Spurgeon said. But in a statement titled “UTLA: We Won’t Back Down,” union leadership denounced the memo as an effort to scare members.
“UTLA members have boycotted faculty meetings many times in past years and we have no intention of backing down now because of threats by Cortines to retaliate against employees who participate.”
The faculty meetings between teachers and principals are held once a month at some campuses. They’re a chance for teachers to go over student progress, budgets and other concerns with campus administrators, Cortines wrote in his letter to Caputo-Pearl.
District officials estimate meeting union demands will cost $800 million more than can be afforded. The majority of that difference, $525 million, is the cost of reducing class sizes by hiring new teachers and counselors. UTLA also wants an 8.5 percent pay raise, while LAUSD is offering 5 percent.
The coming impasse hearings could cause the state’s top labor authority, Public Employment Review Board, to appoint a mediator. If the third party fails to settle UTLA’s dispute, a fact-finding panel will be formed. Should the two sides remain at odds, the union will have met legal requirements for a strike.
More than a year after the 1988 boycotts, PERB ruled UTLA acted illegally by telling teachers to skip the after-school meetings. Cortines told teachers Wednesday the “order still holds today.”
“Accordingly, the district will not pay employees who absent themselves from work or decline to perform their regular professional duties including faculty meetings, as part of a work stoppage,” Cortines wrote in the memorandum that was emailed to all district employees.
In 1989, both sides gave ground in negotiations, with UTLA securing 24 percent pay raises over three years. The deal, however, was rescinded the following year when the nation plunged into recession.
●● I don’t see that anything is accomplished by this escalating rhetoric and public posturing. Boycotting meetings seems to me to be a legitimate albeit provocative civilly-disobedient work action – though I would prefer everyone let the mediation process work out.
I really don’t want to see a strike, but if there is one it won’t exclusively be “against our students, parents and school communities”. Those folks will suffer collateral damage …but the strike will be “against” the corporate entity that is the Los Angeles Unified School District. It will be against ‘Management’ – and management is the Superintendent and the Board of Education.
I often say that “we are all LAUSD” – and that remains true – but part of our dysfunctional family at the holiday table – part of the Collective Bargain we may not have bargained-for – is UTLA and the Beaudry Leadership. They are adults and it is important that we keep them at the table and away from each other’s throats. Let’s keep the music mellow, the volume down and not let them get too deeply into the adult beverages!