LA teachers boycott faculty meetings to press for contract demands
Vanessa Romo | March 24, 2015
Members of the Los Angeles teachers union, UTLA, staged more school site rallies today, these to call attention to contract demands that are now in the hands of an independent mediator to resolve.
At one of the rallies, at Dorsey High School, Sharonne Hapuarachy, an English teacher and union chapter chair, said, “The people who are here today are not here for more of a pay increase. They’re actually out here because we’re holding out for the district to move on our school site demands including lower class sizes nurses and counselors and librarians at every school.”
The rallies played out at an hour many schools were to have held faculty sessions. Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned the teachers that boycotting or engaging in other forms of work stoppage is unlawful and in violation of state regulations.
About two dozen teachers, nurses and other school employees at Dorsey also heard from Alex Caputo-Pearl, the UTLA president. He conceded that rallying during faculty meeting time carried a risk, saying, “We are proud that we are in a fight that is much larger than a one hour pay dock if the superintendent goes through with that.”
Caputo-Pearl said teachers and others were boycotting at schools all across the city, an action scheduled just ahead of the first meeting between union and district negotiators with the independent state mediator assigned to bring the sides together on a new contract.
“We are hopeful that the mediation that begins two days from today with the state appointed mediator will bring this to an agreement around the demands on schools LA students deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said, insisting, again, that he believes LA Unified has the money to satisfy the union’s chief demand, an 8.5 percent pay increase.
A mediator was called in after both sides agreed they had reached an impasse in negotiations.
Earlier in the day, Caputo-Pearl and LA Unified spokesman Tom Waldman appeared on the KCRW show “Press Play with Madeline Brand.” Waldman said that Cortines was serious about docking pay but also suggested that not all teachers were eager to participate.
“Something that goes beyond that which can’t be measured in dollars, what will campuses be like tomorrow as students come to class and there was a boycott?” Waldman said. “And perhaps all the faculty at a particular campus participated, perhaps half of them did. In any event, that’s going to increase the tension on campuses.”
Waldman also asked whether the public would be in support of faculty meeting boycotts or a strike.
“Time will tell, it may be an effective strategy, I’m not sure,” he said. “There may be a backlash because the general public may see this as something that teachers shouldn’t be engaged in because it could lead, or it very well may lead, to a strike.”