LAUSD teachers' pay will be docked if they boycott faculty meetings, superintendent says
By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News
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.