LAUSD teachers boycott faculty meetings despite threat of docked pay

By Thomas Himes, L.A. Daily News | www.dailybreeze.com

Teachers across the nation’s second-largest school district Tuesday ignored warnings their pay would be docked and skipped faculty meetings in protest.

United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl said teachers protested at hundreds of campuses and the turnout proves teachers are more committed to fight for better schools than worried about losing an hour of pay.

“It shows our members are willing to take the risk and the next step of commitment in pushing the district toward the Schools LA Students Deserve campaign,” he said.

The 35,000-member union is demanding an 8.5 percent pay raise and better working conditions, including smaller class sizes and more counselors. LAUSD has countered with a 5 percent pay offer and less substantial efforts to reduce crowded classrooms.

In a letter last week, Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned educators they would lose pay for missing the mandatory after-school meetings.

The boycotts and protests – three in all, including additional dates set for April 7 and 14 – were timed to coincide with mediated negotiations between the district and union. The first of those meetings will be held Thursday, followed by two additional rounds April 6 and April 15.

Should the two sides fail to reach an agreement in mediation, a fact-finding panel will be created from one UTLA, one LAUSD and one third-party member. Should the panel’s finding be rejected by either side, UTLA will have met the legal requirements to strike.

Both the union boycotts and district’s threat of docked pay are reminiscent of plays that led to the last UTLA strike in 1989. Back then, UTLA organized boycotts of after-school meetings that were also timed to coincide with mediation. Five months later teachers commenced a strike that shut down schools for nine days.

While both sides eventually budged, the 24 percent in pay raises secured by UTLA in a three-year deal gave way to pay cuts after it expired in 1991.