Zimmer appoints board’s newest members to lead committees

SteveZimmerLAUSD School board president Steve Zimmer has given the board’s two newest members committee chairmanships.

Ref Rodriguez will be taking over the Early Childhood Education and Parent Engagement Committee, which was previously run by Bennett Kayser, whom Rodriguez defeated in the June runoff.

Zimmer named the other new board member, Scott Schmerelson, chairman of the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Committee.

Mónica Ratliff will head the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee, which was also once led by Kayser. Ratliff previously served on the committee.

Mónica García will retain her chairmanship of the Successful School Climate: Progressive Discipline and Safety Committee. When students protested the military-grade weapons available to school police at the board meeting last Thursday night, García pointed out that the issue will be taken up at her committee.

Schmerelson was also named as the district’s liaison to the National School Boards Association. Zimmer previously made other board appointments just after being elected to the position last month.

Most of the committees meet monthly, and they are all open to the public.

Students face LAUSD board, demanding end to military weapons

The LA Unified board endured a long and unusual protest last night as about 50 students demanded specific actions to get military-style weapons out of the hands of district school police.

The students, some of them wearing bullet-proof vests, chanted for 20 minutes at the start of a meeting — “Back to school, no weapons” and “We want justice for our schools” — in protesting the federal 1033 Program, a federal effort that provides school districts with surplus military-grade weapons. LA Unified has been a recipient.

Board president Steve Zimmer let the chanting continue and at one point said, “Let them go on.”

The demonstration inside the board meeting followed two hours of drumming and shouting outside LA Unified headquarters, with students holding signs bearing the face of President Obama and Superintendent Ramon Cortines.

Manuel Criollo, a protest organizer from the Labor Community Strategy Center, told the board that he wanted an end to the program, which had given the district a tank, three grenade launchers and dozens of M-16s. The district returned the tank and grenade launchers last fall, but has kept the M-16s. In a June letter the Criollo’s group, Cortines said the district had ended its involvement with the program.

Brillo called for the board to be more public about the weapons and demanded that they be returned.

“It’s ironic that we have surplus weapons but we do not have surplus books,” he said.

Inside, the crowd called out to the only black school member, George McKenna, and he responded by recalling his own experiences with civil unrest while defending the need for school police to be prepared for any occasion in which student safety is at risk.

Continue reading

Zimmer sets LAUSD board meeting to begin superintendent search

Steve ZimmerThe LA Unified board has scheduled a special meeting next week to initiate discussions on how to conduct the search for a successor to Superintendent Ray Cortines, who has expressed a desire to step down by December.

“The board will meet on July 30 to start just the technical part of the [search] process,” board president Steve Zimmer said in an interview with KPCC.

“I can’t say for sure what the calendar will be until the board meets and is able to discuss it together,” he said. “But I can, in broad strokes, outline that there will be a period of listening, there will be a period of search, there will be a period of winnowing down from that search.”

Just after Zimmer was elected board president last month, he tried to schedule a meeting with all the members for some time in August, well before the first regular meeting of the new school year, on Sept. 1, but there were scheduling conflicts that needed to be accommodated.

Zimmer has stressed that finding a new superintendent is the most important task facing the board for the upcoming school year. He insisted that there was no “shortlist” of candidates for the position.

“There will be the deliberation over the group of finalists, all of whom I hope will be consensus builders, collaborators, and will have the proper balance of urgency and periphery to understand that to move forward it has to be all of us together,” Zimmer said in the radio interview. “There’s no shortlist.”

Continue reading

Zimmer, on success of public (ed) system in LA: ‘A very open question’

ZImmer Board Meeting March 3, 2014

LA Unified’s new board president, Steve Zimmer, had a recent chat with Politico, and some of his comments reached its Education Morning Edition today.

Nothing surprising until the final paragraph, when he expresses his hope that the selection of a new superintendent to replace the soon-to-be-leaving Ramon Cortines doesn’t “devolve into another ground war over schooling, pitting traditional public school advocates against education reformers,” as Politico put it.

Zimmer responds by saying he hopes to elevate the conversation, adding, “The premise, the baseline assumption, is that a large public system can’t work,” he said. “But that’s still a very open question in Los Angeles.”

He did not elaborate. Or if he did, it wasn’t included in the Politico report.

Elsewhere, Zimmer acknowledged the disruptive issues of the last year or so — iPads, MiSiS, questions over contract bidding, an FBI probe, the departure of former superintendent John Deasy —  and said, “We’re literally at a pivot point.”

“The bruises and wounds that John Deasy and all the controversy around him had left were almost as dangerous to the district as the budget crisis itself,” he added, describing Cortines as a major stabilizing force in helping to balance a budget and in reaching agreement with the teachers union on a new contract.

“So we have to transition from a person who is literally the most skilled school system leader in the country,” he said, “to new leadership in a community that is just healing.”

Board members offer vision of what’s expected of LAUSD president

LAUSD board swear inSteve Zimmer may think that being elected as the new LA Unified board president was the tough part. But now he has to live up to the expectations of his fellow members of the board.

Even before he was voted in unanimously last week, the board members laid out their expectations of the future president.

Among the specifics requested: a monthly report on the search for the new superintendent and a reading of the school board’s goals at the beginning of each meeting.

The wish list came about after Mónica Ratliff interrupted Superintendent Ramon Cortines as he was asking for nominations for president. Before voting, she said, she wanted everyone to articulate their expectations of the position because “we have a rare opportunity to discuss what we would like the board president to do.”

Cortines honored the request, and she began.

“We have to have a very transparent superintendent search,” Ratliff said. That includes an update on a monthly basis “so people know where we are at in terms of that search.”

She said the president must be “somebody who is being transparent about what is going on and not making alliances behind the scenes.”

Former president Richard Vladovic joked, “I’d like to see the new president do exactly what I did.”

He pointed out, “I tried to not use it as a bully pulpit, and I tried to bring us all together.”

Continue reading

Zimmer names McKenna, Ratliff, Vladovic as LA Unified reps

Steve ZimmerAfter Steve Zimmer was elected unanimously last week as the LA Unified board president, one of his first orders of business was appointing a Vice President and finding members to represent the district to a series of organizations.

In his first move, he named George McKenna, the District 1 representative, as board vice president, which didn’t require a vote. Then, the board elected others to positions in county, state and national boards. The positions weren’t contested, and neither of the two new members, Ref Rodriguez and Scott Schmerelson, volunteered for any of the spots.

First up was an election for a representative to the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association. That group was started in 1937 by the Los Angeles County Office of Education to provide school board members with training, informational support and ways to network with other school board members in other nearby districts. They collaborate with the California School Boards Association in Sacramento. 

It was suggested by staff that the same person taking that position should also be elected to the voting board of the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization. That’s also a county committee, made up of 11 members, that studies and makes recommendations about forming new school districts and changing boundaries and territories within districts.

Mónica Ratliff agreed to take both positons.

McKenna was named the board representative to the California School Boards Association, a nonprofit group with nearly 1,000 educational agencies throughout the state that serves as a unified voice for school districts and county offices of education.

For the next position, former board president Richard Vladovic suggested that the president of the school board be the representative to the Council of Great City Schools.

Continue reading

Zimmer wins unanimous approval to serve as LAUSD board leader

The LAUSD school board gives Superintendent Ramon Cortines a standing ovation.

The LAUSD school board gives Superintendent Ramon Cortines a standing ovation.

One week after it appeared Richard Vladovic was destined to serve as president of the LA Unified board for a third consecutive term, the members unanimously today elected Steve Zimmer as its new leader, giving the district its most teacher union friendly president in more than a decade.

Zimmer, who began his career with the district as a teacher, has been serving as board vice president for the last two years. Even so, the ease with which he ascended to the throne was a bit surprising.

Just last week, board members Mónica Ratliff and Mónica García had suggested they might seek to waive newly-adopted term limits for the presidency to re-elect Vladovic for a third term, but neither followed through.

However, just before the members were about to entertain nominations for president, Ratliff pressed Zimmer to identify his own successor as vice president. Zimmer said he would appoint George McKenna, who had been sworn in earlier in the day for a new term, along with newly-elected Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodgriguez and the reelected Vladovic.

McKenna gladly accepted the nomination after Zimmer was elected.

While all seven members were united in their votes for Zimmer, Ratliff was the only one to qualify hers as each member made a choice orally. “I would like nothing more than to vote for a ticket with McKenna on it,” she chirped before voting yes.

Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence for Zimmer.

Continue reading

Zimmer honored as ‘Good Food Hero’ by LA Food Policy Council

LA Unified school board Vice President Steve Zimmer was honored recently by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council for his efforts in getting the district to take a more progressive approach to food purchasing. 

The council developed the Good Food Purchasing Program, which LA Unified adopted in 2012 and strengthened in late 2014 with two “Good Food” resolutions that Zimmer helped get passed. The resolutions called for the district to prioritize local food vendors, labor conditions, environmental concerns and animal welfare when procuring food.

Zimmer was honored by the group as a “Good Food Hero” at its June 11 fundraising gala at the Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles and was also invited to speak at the event. (See the YouTube video above for his full remarks.)

“I want you all to know, if you don’t take anything else from what I say tonight, is that 82 percent of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District live in poverty,” Zimmer said. “Not on the margin, not working, they live in poverty every day. So when we talk about the food chain, for our students, we are every link in that chain.”

Zimmer also expressed his hope that every school district in the state would adopt similar purchasing guidelines that LAUSD has.

The council was formed in 2011 by former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and describes itself as a “collective impact initiative” with the goal of making the Los Angeles area a place “where food is healthy, affordable, fair and sustainable.” The council is made up of 40 members and hundreds of stakeholders who represent over 180 businesses and organizations. It is funded by the city of LA, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and a number of charitable organizations.

As part of the food procurement resolutions spearheaded by Zimmer, LAUSD also joined forced with several other major school districts in the country to form the Urban School Food Alliance. The alliance made headlines around the country in 2014 when it pledged to only purchase antibiotic free chicken.

Just in: ‘Game changer’ to game over for Westside ‘immersion’ school

Mark Twain expansionLA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines has cancelled the district’s plans for a proposed construction project at a Westside school campus that was to house an expanded foreign language immersion program.

Explaining the rationale for his decision in a three-page memo to members of the school board and its bond oversight committee yesterday, Cortines said the project “will not move forward,” but he vowed to work with district officials to provide an alternative pathway for students to continue their immersion studies into high school.

The decision is a blow to school board member Steve Zimmer, who had hailed the expansion of the program into a new school as a “game changer” for the district as part of an overarching strategy to stem the tide of falling enrollment.

The proposed Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School on the current campus footprint of Mark Twain Middle School, approved by the board last year, was a $30 million project intended to house students from the immersion program at nearby Broadway Elementary, which currently has no space for an expansion. It was a bold move, projected as the first facility built by the district to accommodate an instructional innovation open to all students.

But opposition to the project from members of the nearby community, including the West Mar Vista Residents Association, was potent as concerns were raised about increased traffic and congestion the expanded campus and construction might bring to the area. Even LA City Council member Mike Bonin, who represents Mar Vista, voiced his opposition to the project.

“I have reflected on what I learned from our District technical experts, as well as the concerns I have heard from community and school stakeholders,” the Cortines memo said. “It is important that this established Mandarin Foreign Language Immersion Program continue to be offered at Broadway for the long-term. I am supportive of expanding the District’s Mandarin Foreign Language Immersion Program and other Foreign Language Immersion Programs; however, the construction project at Mark Twain is not the avenue to do so, and it will not move forward.”

Continue reading

As school year ends, so does Vladovic presidency; Zimmer next?

ZImmer Board Meeting March 3, 2014

* UPDATED

The close of the school year next month also brings an end to Richard Vladovic’s second term as LA Unified board president. Rules bar him from serving a third consecutive year.

While critical issues await the new president — transformation to new technology, managing the growth of charters, dealing with new budgets, among them — nothing may be more critical than leading the search for a successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines, who has re-upped for what is almost certain to be his final year.

Cortines was plucked out of retirement last year to replace John Deasy and end a tumultuous period within the district. In large measure, he has succeeded. But turning 83 in July, he’s not the face of LA Unified’s future.

The board that will start the next academic year is essentially a young group in terms of service, with two new members after election victories last week — Scott Schmerelson and Ref Rodriguez — and two others with two years of service or less, Mónica Ratliff and George McKenna.

Mónica García served six years as president, the longest of any board board member in 80 years, but she is barred from returning to office because board rules now limit members to four years in total as president.

That leaves Steve Zimmer, a member since 2009, as the likely favorite to replace Vladovic.

Continue reading

Zimmer still angry about Rodriguez campaign but vows to work together

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

Drinking too much at a work dinner or hitting on a co-worker’s spouse can make things truly uncomfortable at the office. But what about publicly damning a future colleague before his first day on the job?

That’s the situation LA Unified school board Vice President Steve Zimmer faces, now that Ref Rodriguez has defeated his good friend, Bennett Kayser, for the District 5 board seat.

“If there ever was a relationship there with Rodriguez, it has been seriously damaged,” Zimmer said a day before Tuesday’s election, piqued by the tenor of Rodriguez’s campaign.

Zimmer accused Rodriguez and his backers of crossing “new frontiers of depravity” and “using a type of lies and distortion, that lowered the entire moral climate of political discourse” throughout the campaign, even if much of the nastiness was orchestrated by groups working on Rodriguez’s behalf, not the candidate himself. Anyway, Zimmer said, the candidate ultimately bears the responsibility for the tone and scope of the campaign.

His position now?

“I meant what I said, and I stand by it,” he told LA School Report today.

Continue reading

LAUSD officials in Sacramento to talk trans-k, adult ed and budget

sacramento_state_capital_houseLA Unified officials are in Sacramento today lobbying for adult education and transitional kindergarten programs. Oh yeah, and the budget, too.

Among those joining in on the road trip are Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly and board members George McKenna and Steve Zimmer. They planned to meet with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and “other key legislators,” according to district officials.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines announced plans to eliminate funding for a pre-school program serving about 13,000 four-year olds, called the School Readiness and Language Development Program. SRLDP costs about $26 million annually and is the only pre-school program financed exclusively with district general funds.

As a result, the board approved a resolution to explore the idea of expanding existing transitional kindergarten programs, which are partially paid for with state funding.

Adult education programs were among the first to be slashed throughout the the recession years, and it has yet to benefit from recent state revenue increases. Further, more cuts are planned. The district issued layoff notices to hundreds of adult education teachers in April.

The latest budget projections from the state’s legislative analysts office estimate the district will receive $710 million dollars above what it had initially expected.

Zimmer ‘damns’ Rodriguez and his supporters for attacks on Kayser

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

* UPDATED

If Ref Rodriguez wins election tomorrow, he’s got no friend in Steve Zimmer.

Rodriguez is the challenger in the race for LA Unified school board District 5 against Bennett Kayser, easily the most heated of the three board elections. A loss by Kayser could shift the ideological balance of the seven member board from pro-union to pro-charter.

While Zimmer, a former teacher and teachers union advocate who represents board District 4, has been a reliable and long-time Kayser supporter, he recently railed against Rodriguez’s “reformer” agenda and campaign tactics, as well as his most powerful and generous supporter, the California Charter Schools Association political action committee.

“Damn them! Damn them!” Zimmer exclaimed during a fire-and-brimstone speech at a Kayser fundraiser last month, about 7 minutes of which is on YouTube.

The remarks came in response to a series of campaign attack ads against Kayser that Zimmer said portrays the incumbent as a racist slumlord whose Parkinson’s disease makes him unfit to serve a second term.

In an interview with LA school Report today, Zimmer doubled down on his scathing criticism of Rodriguez and CCSA.

“They have crossed new frontiers of depravity in this campaign,” Zimmer said. “This is the most amoral type of campaigning, using a type of lies and distortion, that lowered the entire moral climate of political discourse.”

Continue reading

Superintendent Cortines hired for another year to lead LA Unified

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

LAUSD Superintedent Ray Cortines

* UPDATED

Superintendent Ramon Cortines is putting off retirement for another year.

The LA Unified school board yesterday voted unanimously to extend Cortines’s contract through the end of the 2015-16 school year. Terms of the deal are still under review, “but nothing, including salary, was expected to change from the previous pact,” district officials said in a statement. The agreement will become public once the deal is finished.

The district spokesman, Tom Waldman, said Cortines declined to comment on his decision to stay another year.

Cortines, who turns 83 in July, came out of retirement to serve as interim leader of the district for a third term after John Deasy resigned in October 2014 amid a disastrous technology roll out and accusations of shady business dealings with Apple and Pearson.

The decision to hire Cortines, who had led the district twice before as superintendent, was unanimous and happened swiftly at a time when the seven member board appeared deeply divided on most issues. Since then the board has rallied around him and his efforts to bring order to a district awash in controversy.

“He came out of retirement to save the district, and I believe he’s done that,” board member Mónica Ratliff told LA School Report.

“I fully supported extending the Superintendent’s contract because I think he has been amazing,” she added.

Continue reading

LAUSD preschool program in peril with help still 2 years away

Preschool childrenLA Unified is on the brink of cutting a highly-successful preschool program for some of the district’s poorest children at the same time that members of the California state assembly are trying to expand early education programs for all low-income pre-Kindergarten students.

The district’s School Readiness Language Development Program (SRLDP) is just one of a handful of programs for district pre-schoolers, but it is the only one that is entirely financed by general funds with no supplemental contributions from state or federal revenue to help cover the $36 million price tag. That makes it perpetually vulnerable to cuts, especially in lean years, and next year is no different.

With the district facing a $113 million deficit in 2015-16, Superintendent Ramon Cortines has proposed cutting SRLDP over the next two years, a decision that would impact 10,000 children, nearly a third of the district’s 35,000 four-year olds enrolled in preschool.

But even as the district program teeters on the precipice of extinction, the state Assembly Committee on Education is pushing AB 47, the Preschool for All Act of 2015, legislation that would provide sufficient funding to guarantee “every low-income 4 year old with access to preschool” by 2017.

While the bill is far from becoming law — it will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriation Committee later this month — the prospect of future state support has some LA Unified school board members calling on Cortines to continue funding SRLDP until a decision is made at the state level.

Continue reading

Zimmer: immersion school is ‘game-changer’ to stem falling enrollment

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

Despite neighborhood opposition to a proposed $30 million Mandarin-immersion elementary school in Mar Vista, LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer calls the project “a game-changer” in the district’s efforts to reverse years of enrollment declines that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I don’t have accurate words to express how important this issue is,” he said in an interview with LA School Report. “The future of public education on the west side of LA as it relates to increasing enrollment in the future depends on this.”

The proposed Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School on the campus of Mark Twain Middle School, approved by the board last year, represents the first time the district would build a facility to accommodate an instructional innovation open to all students, rather than vice versa, in a shift that recognizes the curriculum’s growing popularity with parents and students across the city.

Zimmer said families of 360 students have committed to the new school, drawn by the focus of its language immersion, and a waiting list includes many more.

“The majority of these students would not otherwise go to an LAUSD school,” he said. “That makes this a sea change in terms of whether LAUSD can plan for enrollment growth or decline.”

Enrollment in district schools is expected to decline in the 2015-2016 school year for a 12th consecutive year. In the most recent year for which the district has figures, 2013-2014, the K-through-12 enrollment was 651,322, a 2 percent drop from two years before. District officials estimate that every 3 percent drop costs the district $100 million in funding.

Continue reading

Westside group outraged over proposed immersion school

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

A group of Mar Vista community members and parents is mounting a protest againt LA Unified school board member Steve Zimmer over his support for a Mandarin immersion elementary school slated to be built in their Westside neighborhood.

The $30 million school, currently dubbed the Mandarin and English Dual-Language Immersion Elementary School project, was approved by the LA Unified school board in April 2014 with Zimmer’s support, and an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project entered the public comment phase on March 26.

The school would be located in Zimmer’s District 4 on a few acres of open green space that now exists at Mark Twain Middle School. It would would have 15 classrooms and move students currently from nearby Broadway Elementary School’s Mandarin and English Dual- Language Immersion Program to the new site. The district says that Broadway no longer has space to allow the program to grow.

But the community members and parents have taken to a new website, stopcommuterschool.com, to express their strong opposition to the project.

Continue reading

Zimmer lashes out at judge’s ruling on federal immigration policy

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

A ruling by a federal judge in Texas yesterday is forcing the Obama administration to postpone the start of new immigration policies that would lead to work permits and job protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The action by Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville, means that months of legal maneuvering may stand before the end of the President’s reform efforts or their implementation.

That has a huge impact in Los Angeles, where the school district just passed a resolution to offer pro bono services to unaccompanied minor residing within the boundaries of LA Unified.

Steve Zimmer, a sponsor of the LA Unified resolution, responded with a scathing attack on Judge Hanen’s decision, characterizing it as an extension of “racism, xenophobia, fear and hate [that] are promulgated daily by the Republican House leadership.”

In a statement yesterday, Zimmer said:

“I am angry and disappointed but I am not surprised.  Racism, xenophobia, fear and hate are promulgated daily by the Republican House leadership as well as the right media. This hate is directed squarely against LAUSD students and their families.  And this is not new. At every juncture of the Civil Rights movement there was resistance.  At times the strongest resistance infiltrates the judiciary. But we know that the weight of judicial history is on the side of the President and our school communities.

“As such, LAUSD will continue to prepare for our role in facilitating the expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and the new DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents) programs under President Obama’s Executive Action. LAUSD understands that our schools have a pivotal role in document preparation and information dissemination. We will continue to work with our partners in labor, immigrant rights and the business community as well as Mayor Garcetti to ensure the Los Angeles leads the nation in guiding our students and their families towards full access to the American Dream.”

Zimmer moderating UTLA panel discussion on union issues

Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer

UTLA, the LA Unified teachers union, is offering tonight an unvarnished public view of its bargaining position in negotiations with LA Unified for a new teachers contract.

Board member Steve Zimmer is scheduled to moderate a panel discussion at Occidental College that includes UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Martha Sanchez of Alliance of Californians for Community Development.

The event begins at 7 p.m.

Weingarten is participating to demonstrate support for UTLA, which has been demanding lower class sizes, full staffing, restored funding of adult and early childhood education and higher salaries as part of its negotiations with the district. She ias also expected to discuss how the issues in Los Angeles are playing out across the country

The UTLA-district talks have produced little progress so far after months of negotiating although sources on both sides say parallel talks are underway to help close the gap.

Weingarten is also planning to appear with Caputo-Pearl and others at a news conference tomorrow morning at Slawson Southeast Occupational Center, a career and technical education facility that primarily serves adult students.

“Our class sizes are too large and our schools are not staffed fully to support the needs of our students,” Caputo-Pearl said in a news release from the union. “LAUSD educators are not being compensated fairly and we are in real danger of losing them to other, higher paying districts, and recruiting educators to LAUSD is getting increasingly more difficult.”

Fruit company’s battle with UFW to be examined by LAUSD board

Photo via Garawan Farming

Photo via Gerawan Farming

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer is asking the board to weigh in on a legal battle between a major fruit company and the United Farm Workers (UFW) union.

Gerawan Farming, one of the country’s largest suppliers of peaches, plums and other fruit, has had contracts with LA Unified and is under consideration for future deals, according to a resolution authored by Zimmer that will be heard at tomorrow’s board meeting.

It appears to be the latest effort by Zimmer to use LA Unified’s contract negotiating power to put pressure on the food industry for changes in the way it grows food, treats animals and treats workers. He recently co-sponsored the board’s “Good Food” resolution, which was passed in December. It calls on the district to purchase healthier foods and to only work with vendors who provide a safe environment for workers and a cruelty-free environment for livestock.

“The effects of this could be quite far reaching,” Zimmer told LA School Report recently. “We do intend to use the contracting process to leverage important changes in the large agricultural industry.”

The fruit company is currently involved in a legal battle with UFW over the union’s representation of its workers, and Zimmer’s resolution calls on Gerawan to comply with state and federal labor laws — which it is has been accused of breaking — and immediately implement a labor agreement issued by a neutral mediator and the State of California.

The resolution also calls on the district’s Procurement Services Division to report back to the board on Gerawan Farming’s compliance with fair labor practices before any contracts with it are brought to the board for approval.

The company’s battle with UFW is complex and dates back 20 years. According to the Fresno Bee:

  • An administrative judge is hearing the case that could decide whether more than 3,000 farmworkers employed by Gerawan Farming will be represented by the UFW.
  • The UFW won the right to represent Gerawan workers 20 years ago, but never negotiated a contract and the case remained in limbo until 2012, when the UFW again requested the right to bargain on the workers’ behalf.
  • A contract was negotiated in 2013 with a mediator but was never honored by Gerawan because, in November, Gerawan workers held an election that attempted to decertify the UFW’s representation of Gerawan workers.
  • The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) has refused to count the ballots until it investigates a number of complaints of unfair labor practices against Gerawan that includes intimidating workers into voting for decertification.