One day after a neutral, state-appointed fact finder recommended that United Teachers Los Angeles accept LAUSD’s offer to raise teacher salaries 6 percent, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl refused to return to the negotiating table and instead set a strike date for Jan. 10 “unless there are dramatic shifts.”
That last phrase left the door cracked open for a settlement, but it’s unclear how such a shift might take place while the union is refusing to negotiate. If the strike takes place on Jan. 10, students will be back in class for three days after winter break before losing their teachers to a walkout.
“I definitely don’t want them to go on strike,” said Rosa Elena Andresen, a parent of a child with severe special needs at Pacific Blvd. in Huntington Park. “I want the teachers to get a raise, but I’m worried how the strike will affect me and my daughter. They won’t be working on her goals during a strike.”
UTLA also disputed the neutral fact finder’s contention that LAUSD has “financial limitations,” including a structural budget deficit, and should raise the requirements for new employees to qualify for free lifetime health benefits, which would “free up more money for salaries as opposed to diverting so much money to retiree health benefits.”
“We do deny the district has real problems in their budget,” Caputo-Pearl said. That means UTLA is now rejecting the findings of the county, the state, two independent financial review panels and the neutral state-appointed fact finder.
Legal wrangling between UTLA and the district continued on Wednesday, with the California Public Employee Relations Board filing a charge against UTLA for refusing to bargain in good faith. PERB’s charge means the agency that oversees the labor dispute has found sufficient evidence to move forward with the unfair labor complaint charge that LAUSD brought against UTLA in October, according to LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist.
Meanwhile, UTLA said it was filing its own unfair labor charge against LAUSD for claiming during a Tuesday press conference that it had agreed to a 6 percent raise for teachers.
That dispute resulted from the fact that the UTLA-appointed member of the fact-finding panel, Vernon Gates, an employee of the California Teachers Association, wrote in the fact-finding report that “I concur” with the recommendation for a 6 percent raise. Caputo-Pearl said UTLA had agreed to no such thing, putting UTLA directly at odds with its own representative from the statewide teachers union.
That contradiction prompted LAUSD to put out a press release saying that “UTLA leadership continued its unwillingness to bargain in good faith when it attempted to retract its support for a 6 percent salary increase for teachers and all UTLA members.”
Caputo-Pearl also characterized LAUSD’s salary offer as an attempt to “buy off” the union, which left some observers scratching their heads, given that labor negotiations are typically intended, first and foremost, to determine employee salaries. It also added fuel to LAUSD’s contention that Caputo-Pearl has planned to strike all along and never negotiated in good faith – in violation of state labor laws.
“They said they’re not even interested in talking to us today,” Holmquist told Speak UP, “which further points out they intended to have a strike all along, regardless of what the district did. We reached out to UTLA and are ready and willing to sit down and talk to them to try to avoid a strike, and that’s been rebuffed. We would certainly welcome the opportunity to resolve this short of a strike, but it doesn’t seem we have a willing partner.”