Teachers union talking strategy for combatting teacher jail

Teacher Jail LAUSDWhile officials from the teachers union, UTLA, are contemplating salary demands in a new labor contract with the district, they have not lost sight of another key issue, how to deal with teachers housed in what union officials derisively call “teacher jails.”

The union’s Committee for Unjustly Housed Teachers was meeting today, for the first time this school year, in a strategy session to determine how to tackle what they view as the district’s abusive use of the “teacher jails.”

“We need to develop a plan for getting the district to follow the policies that they have in place for housed teachers,” committee point chair, Colleen Schwab told LA School Report before the meeting. “That’s our goal, at the minimum. To get them to do what they said they would.”

Schwab, who’s co-lead of the committee since its inception a year ago, stressed that the teachers union has no intention of calling for the complete elimination jails.

“Obviously, we need a place for teachers who could harm students while the district conducts its investigations,” she said. “But there has to be a better solution than what is happening right now.”

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Teachers union blasts Deasy again for new computer system

UTLA logoThe LA teachers union today intensified its attack against LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy and the administration over the management of the district’s new student data computer system.

For the second time in less than a week, the union put out a press release critical of Deasy and what UTLA says are his attempts to gloss-over the bungled roll-out of MiSiS, short for My Integrated Student Information System.

“When will Superintendent Deasy step up and admit the buck stops at his desk?” UTLA said in a statement released late today. “It is time for the school board to demand accountability from the Superintendent.”

So far, the only high ranking district administrator to take public responsibility for the debacle, which has left thousands of students un-enrolled and without the proper class assignments, is Chief Information Officer, Ron Chandler. Although he has acknowledged problems with the new program, which was designed to consolidate student data, Chandler has repeatedly downplayed the severity of them.

But UTLA has called out Matt Hill, Deasy’s Chief Strategy Officer, for his role in launching MiSiS before it was ready. In an internal memo sent Thursday afternoon to a list of undisclosed recipients, Hill said, “I realize at this point, apologies are not sufficient, so I will just say that your colleagues in IT are working as hard and fast as they can to get this system performing the way it should.”

The union’s demand for the school board’s intervention comes days before the swearing in of newly elected board member, George McKenna, who many believe with be a sympathetic vote for union-favored issues that come before the board.

McKenna’s addition to the board appears to shift the balance to a majority of teachers union-backed members, which could have a significant impact on labor contract negotiations as they resume later this month.

Board member Tamar Galatzan last week called for an investigation by the district’s inspector general’s office into the development and launch of MiSiS.

Previous Posts: Galatzan calling for probe into computer system snafus; Teachers union says computer glitch cost students first day

LAUSD schools assured to start with no new teacher contract

UTLA logoLA Unified teachers will return to school next week with no new UTLA contract.

Negotiators met for the second time yesterday, and the next session is not scheduled until Aug. 21 — nine days after school starts.

While the teachers union put out a press release yesterday, chiding the district for not being cooperative, the district’s chief negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, said the meeting was constructive.

“I would say it was productive,” Ekchian told LA School Report.

Among the topics covered over the three hour meeting, she said, were the budget, staffing, and class size reductions.

But in the press release, the union accused the district of giving them a Sophie’s Choice of smaller classes or salary increases. Not both, which the union says the district can afford.

“We don’t buy it,” the release said. “We believe the district is trying to pit educators against parents and the community.”

Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report yesterday that teachers have been waiting for the district to provide line-by-line numbers for the district’s base expenditures. Ekchian says they began to do that “in a very global way” and will delve more deeply into the budget in future meetings.

 Previous Posts: UTLA’s Caputo-Pearl: ‘Our goal is to win a good contract’; LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’

UTLA’s Caputo-Pearl: ‘Our goal is to win a good contract’

Alex Caputo-Pearl photoWith school about to open for 2014-2015, Alex Caputo-Pearl embarks on his first year as president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). He couldn’t have found a busier time to begin his first term, with negotiations underway for a new collective bargaining contract, a curriculum transition to Common Core and a host of other issues facing his 30,000-member union.

LA School Report had a chat with him today to get his thoughts on the union and the issues ahead as school doors open. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy has characterized your statements of a potential strike as “breathtakingly irresponsible.” What is your response?

Answer: What is actually breathtaking is the conditions in our schools. We’ve got many schools without nurses, without librarians, arts or music programs. We’ve got some of the highest student to counselor ratios and highest class sizes in the country. What’s breathtaking is that the conditions of students and by extension educators face everyday in schools. That’s what we should be talking about when we’re using dramatic words like “breathtaking.”

Further, we are still waiting on an actual narrative and numeric description about how the base expenditure money that increased because the district received so much more money was spent. We’ve been waiting for months for a line-by-line description of where that increase was spent, and we still haven’t received it.  To expect a snappy agreement without process would be ridiculous.

Q: So, do you expect this to be a long and protracted process? Is a strike inevitable?

A: Do we want a strike? Hell, no! But do we know that we need to build up our capacity to deal with the kind of intransigence that we’re seeing. Yes, and  part of preparing for struggle is building up our capacity and part of building our capacity is building the capacity of a strike.

Q: Assuming you get a fair contract for teachers, what’s your next big priority for teachers this year?

A: Our goal is to win a good contract and to win good board policies for students and for members. And I think contracts, by definition, are temporary compromises on a bunch of issues, so I think the next step would be to continue to move the ball forward around the (union’s) “Schools LA Students Deserve” program, be it class size, school improvement, and educator control over professional development.

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As talks resume, LAUSD, teachers union still far apart

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsNegotiators for LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, resume contract talks later today amid charges and counter-charges of which side is responsible for the lack of progress. Teachers are set to return for the opening of the school year next week.

Late last week, the sides exchanged letters, each sharp in tone, that sought to blame the other for delays, miscommunications and disagreements over how the negotiating sessions should play out.

While the accusations are the usual stuff of collective bargaining involving public entities, the missives were helpful in at least one respect. Maybe for the first time publicly, in a July 28 letter to the district’s chief negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl clarified that 17.6 percent salary increase the union is demanding would cover a two-year period, last year and the year ahead.

Until now, the union had not specified a period of time.

Caputo-Pearl’s letter is posted on the UTLA website, and it calls the district’s latest offer — raises of 2 percent, 2 percent and 2.5 percent for three years — “lethargic” and further accuses the district of ignoring other union concerns, including issues of staffing and class sizes.

Ekchian responded a day later, accusing the union of not taking a new contract serious enough to warrant more frequent negotiating sessions, with the start of school so close at hand.

She also took Caputo-Pearl to task over “your now seemingly ritual, repeated threats of strike” against the backdrop of only a single negotiating session.

To anyone who has followed high-profile labor negotiations, the current backing-and-forthing, including threats of a strike, is not unusual when sides are far apart and communications sound as if they are taking place on AM and FM.

That all could change, of course, during today’s session, scheduled for 1 pm to 4 pm.

Or not.

Previous Posts: Deasy on UTLA’s talk of a strike: ‘breathtakingly irresponsible’; Teachers union leaders updating members on strike potential; Strike talk emerges on Caputo-Pearl’s first day as union chief

Deasy on UTLA’s talk of a strike: ‘breathtakingly irresponsible’

John DeasyAs LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy prepared to deliver his “State of the District” speech to school leaders and educators at Garfield High School today, he sat for a wide-ranging interview with LA School Report yesterday, addressing the possibility of a teachers strike, implementation of Common Core, his relationship with the board and the importance of reading, among other issues.

Here’s what he had to say.

Question: As the school year opens, and with only one bargaining session under your belt, UTLA is preparing teachers for the possibility of a strike. How much of that is real and how much is theater for bargaining leverage?

Answer: What is there to strike over? We have yet to receive [UTLA’s] bargaining proposal. We don’t even know what their demand is? I just don’t understand such a language whatsoever. It would strike me as breathtakingly irresponsible to talk about something as great as a strike when we have only had one bargaining session. I would never even have a conversation about something as ludicrous as saying to the public that we might have a strike when we met people once. The gravity of telling parents something like that is breathtakingly irresponsible.

Q: We know what they want: Teachers are demanding a 17.6 percent raise.

What we have offered is a 26.3 percent compensation over three years. We have committed to completely picking up the all district’s pension costs, taking care of all increases in health benefits for the next three years and maintaining all the raises that everybody gets. And that is a non-starter? Someone should clue in the LAPD, who are getting zero.

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Teachers union leaders updating members on strike potential

UTLA Rally Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking LAUSD

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl speaking to union members

No matter the state of contract negotiations between LA Unified and the teachers union, UTLA, instructors are becoming more familiar with the possibility of a strike.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, said in an interview today union officials are busy organizing parents, sending out negotiation updates and preparing school sites for the possibility that the district and the union reach an impasse in bargaining.

“I’m very confident we can organize ourselves to be a force,” he said, a reference to developing unity among union members. “We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to our efforts so far.”

Negotiators for the district and union have met several times to exchange ideas. So far, the union has rejected each of the district’s first two offers, calling the latest one “a non-starter.” The district has offered a 2 percent payment to teachers for last year, a 2 percent salary increase for each of the next two years and a 2.5 percent increase in a third year. The out years are predicated on district revenues.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

A bigger team for teachers union but no agreement in sight

Alex Caputo-Pearl UTLA contract negotiations LAUSDThe latest LA Unified-UTLA bargaining session featured a change in tactics by the union but nothing close to an agreement.

The union brought all seven officers into negotiations yesterday, signaling a shift to what it calls “big bargaining.” And it’s likely to get bigger: The union said in a statement future bargaining sessions would include rank-and-file members as part of the bargaining team and parents and academics as observers.

Teacher unions in other cities, like Chicago and St. Paul, have used the tactic, ostensibly to demonstrate strength, unity and determination, in UTLA’s case, perhaps as prelude to a strike. For UTLA, the statement said, the idea is to put a focus on “smaller class sizes, full staffing, salary restoration and raises for educators, who have gone seven years without a raise, took furlough days and made other sacrifices during the recession years.”

“We know more money is coming into the district every year and there is no reason to maintain large class sizes,” the statement said. “The district wants us to be quiet on the class size issue. We will not. Nor will we drop our demand for fully staffed schools that provide social-emotional support for students and offer the arts and other electives that our students deserve.”

LA Unified Superintendent John Deasy declined to comment on the change.

What it might achieve is unclear. The union is clearly unsatisfied with the district’s latest contract offer — a 2 percent bonus for last year, 2 percent salary increases for the coming year and the next and a 2 1/2 percent raise for the year after that, with the second two years conditional of the district’s financial situation.

The union has called that offer a “non-starter” and yesterday asked district negotiators “to explain their numbers in formulating the most recent offer.” The union is demanding a 17.6 percent salary increase over an undetermined number of years.

“In many ways, their offer represents a throwback to bad ideas the district had in past years that did not work,” Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl said in the statement.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for August 6th; a larger table may be necessary.

Previous Posts: LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract; Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

LA Unified, teachers meeting today to discuss a contract

LAUSD Teachers' salaries

Negotiators for LA Unified and its teachers union, UTLA, had planned to meet today to discuss a new contract for teachers, based on the district’s latest offer. The district described it as an improvement over the initial offer, but days before the offer was officially made, the union dismissed it as a “non-starter” and continued the threat of a strike. Meanwhile, courtesy of the LA Daily News, here’s a look at the rate of salary increase for LA Unified teachers over the last 10 years.

Previous Posts: Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’; JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union; UTLA could start another academic year without a contract

Teachers union calls district contract offer ‘a non-starter’

teachers union raise salary UTLA Contract NegotiationsUTLA, the teachers union, has called LA Unified’s latest contract offer “a non-starter,” signaling a difficult resumption of bargaining when talks resume on Thursday.

“Just days before a scheduled bargaining session, LAUSD today presented UTLA with a revised contract offer that falls short of what is needed to achieve the schools that LA students deserve,” the union said in a statement issued late yesterday.

The union response came hours after LA School Report reported the district’s new offer — essentially a three-year deal with raises of 2 percent over the first two years and a 2.5 percent increase in the third year, with raises conditional on the financial state of the district.

The district’s first offer was a one-year deal with a 2 percent increase. Both offers included a 2 percent bonus for the 2013-2014 school year.

“Keep in mind educators have not had a salary increase in seven years and took what amounted to an eight percent salary reduction during the recession years,” the union said. “Throughout this period the cost of living has increased—putting an even greater burden on educators.”

The union’s salary demand has remained vague throughout, with leaders pressing for a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecified number of years. District officials say the pay raises offered amount to a compounded 8.6 percent increase over three years and, when factoring in health care coverage and other benefits, a 26.3 percent increase.

The new union president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, has also sustained his saber-rattling for a strike in recent days, urging teachers to start saving in case negotiators reach an impasse and union leaders call for a job action to gain leverage.

The union response, which dismissed other changes proposed by the district as not useful, including how teachers are evaluated, came only after details of the offer were made public. Union officials have had the contract offer for several days but remained silent.

Negotiators have scheduled a second bargaining session in early August, before the new school year starts, and another before the month is out. 

JUST IN: LAUSD sweetens contract offer to teachers union

Vivian Ekchian Betty Forrester LAUSD

From left: Negotiators Vivian Ekchian, LAUSD; Betty Forrester, UTLA

In a new contract proposal to the teachers union, UTLA, LA Unified is offering a three-year package with annual raises of at least 2 percent and a plan to re-hire 3,000 teachers who have been laid off in recent years.

The latest offer adds two years to the length of the contract initially offered to the union and mirrors the deal offered to AALA, the administrators union: a 2 percent lump sum for 2013-14, a 2 percent raise over each of the next two years, and a 2.5 percent pay bump in 2016-17. 

District officials intend to present the latest terms to the union officials, including the chief negotiator, Betty Forrester, at a bargaining session scheduled for Thursday. Two more sessions are scheduled for August.  

The district’s chief labor negotiator, Vivian Ekchian, told LA School Report that she is eager to resume contract talks after nearly a month of inactivity. 

UTLA rejected the district’s opening proposal on May 26 without any debate, calling it “insulting.” The union has asked for a 17.6 percent raise over an unspecified number of years, following seven years without a salary increase.  

Ekchian says the more robust offer is not likely to be dismissed as quickly. “The past rejection was based on new contracts for just two years,” she said. “This is a four-year commitment.”

When compounded, the pay increases add up to 8.5 percent over the next three years, which would cost the district more than $353 million, she said. Including health benefits and other costs, the district says the the new reflects a 26.3 percent increase over current levels. 

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McKenna is the union candidate, but CTA gave to Johnson backers

AAVREP JohnsonCalifornia’s biggest teacher union contributed $20,000 to an organization that is a major supporter of the LA Unified school board District 1 candidate that UTLA is trying to defeat.

According to the California Secretary of State, which tracks political contributions, the California Teachers Association (CTA) gave the money to the African American Voter Registration and Education Project (AAVREP) in June of last year.

AAVREP, a Super PAC founded in 2002 by LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has spent over $114,000 in independent expenditures on behalf of Alex Johnson, a strong supporter of charter schools who is running against George McKenna, whose only independent expenditure group for the Aug. 12 runoff election is the PAC for the LA teachers union, an affiliate of CTA.

Johnson works for Ridley-Thomas as an education advisor.

The Project says it’s the largest organized effort targeting African American and urban voters in California, registering more than 175,000 voters over the last 20 years. Its goal is to increase political participation among African American and urban voters.

Since CTA made the donation to AAVREP, the group has also spend money to support Wendy Gruel in her mayoral campaign and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. 

“Educators believe it is extremely important for citizens who are eligible to vote do so in order to make their voices heard,” said Claudia Briggs, a spokeswoman for CTA. “This is why from time to time we support voter registration projects around the state.”

Previous Posts: UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race; Vote-by-Mail request for District 1 school board starts today; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

At AFT convention, teachers union expected to fire up the base

Randi Weingarten

Randi Weingarten, AFT President

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) kicks off its annual convention in downtown Los Angeles tomorrow bringing more 3,500 national union delegates to the home of LA Unified, the second largest school district in the country.

On the agenda: fending off what the union sees as its biggest threats, including billionaire money, an assault on tenure, and the “pervasive fixation on testing over teaching and learning,” according to a union press release.  A proposed hike in union dues is also on the table.

It is less clear whether the delegates will seek a resolution asking for the resignation of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as its counterpart, the National Education Association, did at its convention last week.

The gathering is attracting political and union heavy weights: AFT President, Randi Weingarten will deliver the keynote address Friday morning, following a speech by Governor Jerry Brown. Other speakers include Mayor Eric Garcetti, and California State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson, a teachers union ally who is facing a November re-election fight against education reformer Marshal Tuck.

AFT is the second largest teachers union in the country, representing 1.5 million teachers, health workers and school-related personnel nationwide.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the newly installed president of the Los Angeles teachers union (UTLA) will lead a panel on social movement unionism that will include teachers union leaders from Chicago, St. Paul, and Philadelphia.

“It will be about how to take on some of the challenges that unions are facing by building a broader alliance with parents and community all around the quality schools agenda,” Caputo-Pearl told LA School Report.

“Obviously we’ll get to talk about some of the dilemmas we face in Los Angeles, like the billionaire funded Vergara lawsuit, as well as some of the problems with Superintendent John Deasy putting forward an unacceptable offer around pay,” he said.

The union is currently in contract negotiations with the district but appears to be at an impasse. UTLA leaders flatly rejected the district’s recent proposal of a 2 percent raise for 2014-15 plus a retroactive 2 percent bonus for 2013-14, calling it “insulting.”

Meanwhile in a letter to members posted on the convention website, AFT President Weingarten explained why she is recommending a dues hike, taking members’ annual contribution from the current $213 to $225 a year by 2015.

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Strike talk emerges on Caputo-Pearl’s first day as union chief

Alex Caputo-Pearl new president of Los Angeles Teachers Union

Alex Caputo-Pearl new president of the United Teachers Los Angeles

Alex Caputo-Pearl today assumed the office of President of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), a union battling with LA Unified for a larger salary increase than the two percent the district has offered.

UTLA remains one of the last of the district’s labor partners to reach agreement on a contract. The teachers had initially asked for a 17.6 percent raise, spread over an unspecified number of years. Negotiations continue, but there’s no clear indication an accord is anywhere in sight.

That’s especially problematic in that Caputo-Pearl, who spent his first day on the job in Denver, attending a National Education Association meeting, often suggested in campaigning for the presidency that he’d be willing to take the teachers on strike if a fair bargain is not reached.

And the possibility arose again today in a press release from the union.

It said Caputo-Pearl and his new team of officers are “hitting the ground running” on policy initiatives, which include “organizing members school-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and area-by-area to a place where we can strike if we feel it is necessary” to achieve other gains, such as smaller classes, pay increases, additional school staffing and elimination of “gotcha” evaluations and “teacher jail.”

The possibility of a walkout came up later in the day in a statement from the union, expressing support for SEIU Local 99, the school support staff union, which is waiting to finalize its contract offer. The district has proposed $15 an hour for all workers who make less and a 6.64 percent increase over three years for workers who make more than $15 an hour.

In its words of support, UTLA said, “UTLA stands with the LAUSD school employees who have demanded, and who deserve, to be paid a living wage.  This is a symbol of respect for people who work directly with students every day.  UTLA members, over decades, have participated in coalition strategy meetings and walked on picket lines in support of workers’ struggles from all sectors for the living wage.”

Caputo-Pearl was unavailable for comment. A union spokeswoman said his schedule in Denver precludes it.

Previous posts: JUST IN: Caputo-Pearl wins decisively for UTLA president, Teachers union set to demand salary hike of 17.6 percent

Commentary: Vergara decision on tenure — and our union

Teacher tenure LAUSD Vergara

Cartoon by David Granlund

By Ron Taw

I came to education out of the business world. Before entering the classroom, I was making my way up the corporate ladder at a Fortune 500 company. But then, over 15 years ago, I realized that I wanted a job where “success and advancement” would mean changing more lives, not just earning more money.

That’s why I came into teaching, and why I stay. So as someone who deeply loves his job and his students, I am disappointed in the reactionary response of many of my colleagues to the ruling in Vergara v. California, in which California’s teacher tenure laws were ruled unconstitutional.

Rather than an attack on teachers, Vergara has given us an opportunity to completely rethink the systems of teacher tenure, support, evaluations and lay-offs. When I received tenure, it was the result of an arbitrary and opaque process, divorced from my work in the classroom helping students. At the moment, tenure remains the only official milestone for most teachers’ careers. So rather than an empty stamp, we want tenure to be meaningful, impactful, and part of a career-long system of professional development.

This ruling presents a rare opportunity for actual classroom educators to own our profession and lead the nation in creating an innovative, student-focused and teacher-driven system for how we hire, evaluate and retain educators.

The impending wave of retirements and decline in new teacher credentials being issued means we have to do something new to ensure that we are not facing understaffed classrooms in the coming years. Changing tenure is not the silver bullet, but it can be a key part of the solution.

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At midday rally, teachers union insist on cut of new state money

Alex-Caputo Pearl Union Rally at LAUSD School Board Meeting teachers union

UTLA incoming-president Alex Caputo-Pearl speaks at a union rally.

As a prologue to today’s LA Unified board of education meeting, UTLA members rallied outside of LA Unified headquarters calling for a double digit raise, especially after the state Legislature approved the largest budget in state history.

“Even more money than what they prognosticated in May is coming in [to our schools],” President-elect, Alex Caputo-Pearl told union members.

The $108 billion budget was approved on Father’s Day. While it increases funding to education, it remains unclear how much more money LA Unified will get.

“So how is it possible that we are not seeing the offer that we need from LAUSD?” Caputo-Pearl asked the crowd, which booed in response.

“We need a pay restoration and raise for our folks. It’s the respect they deserve,” he added.

Captuto Pearl said he’ll call on the board to “do what other districts throughout the state have been doing for the past year,” a request to give teachers and other UTLA members a meaningful raise that more than makes up for pay cuts the union accepted to “keep the district afloat” during the recession.


Labor groups split on support for McKenna and Johnson in runoff

Alex Johnson and George McKenna LAUSD election runoff

Alex Johnson (left), George McKenna (right)

The battle for LA Unified’s open District 1 board seat is playing out not only among voters in the district, but also within the city’s labor unions.

Both candidates in the Aug. 12 runoff, George McKenna and Alex Johnson, have drawn considerable labor support. But a substantial split suggests that this is a typical election pitting labors groups that favor reform policies against the teachers union.

McKenna, the former administrator, would appear to have an advantage within the LA Unified family. He has been endorsed by two of the district’s three major labor partners — the teachers, UTLA; and the school administrators, AALA.

Johnson, an aide to LA Country Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, has the support of the third, SEIU Local 99, as well as endorsements from 15 other locals, representing a variety of trades, including fire fighters, teamsters and probation officers.

A bigger prize awaits, if it is offered. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for more than 300 locals, representing about 600,000 workers, has scheduled an endorsement committee meeting for July 10 to determine which of the candidates the union might endorse.

And might, is the key word.

The AFL-CIO withheld endorsing anyone in the primary, and any recommendation from the committee would go before the membership on July 21.

“It’s not common for the delegates to overrule the decision,” said Rusty Hicks, the group’s political director. “But it can.”


Teachers union planning a salary rally at LAUSD board meeting

UTLA logo teachers unionThe LA Unified board meeting on June 17 might be more crowded than usual.

UTLA, the teachers union, is planning a noon press conference outside the district’s downtown headquarters and handing out leaflets to call attention to the board’s demand for “a fair pay raise” for the coming years.

The union’s activities come at a precarious time. The 2014-2015 budget is almost complete, pending a final review and vote by the board, which is scheduled for June 24.

At this point, the district has offered the teachers a 2 percent raise for the academic year just ending, and another 2 percent for the coming year. By contrast, the union is demanding a 17.6 percent increase over an unspecific number of years.

The distance between them and the number of days left before the budget has to be completed, about two weeks, suggests that teachers might begin the new school year under salary terms of the old school year.

The union says in an advisory on its website that members will attend the meeting to demand “a fair pay raise that respects educators’ work and our financial sacrifices during the recession” and “authentic resources and support for our schools—such as lower class size and direct services to students—instead of (Superintendent John) Deasy-driven priorities and more out-of-classroom positions.”

The board is allowing 30 people to appear at the meeting to argue their case. If enough union members get there in time, they can grab all the slots.

UTLA votes to endorse McKenna in District 1 board race

George McKenna LAUSD

George McKenna


The LA teachers union, UTLA, voted last night to endorse George McKenna for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat in the August runoff election.

McKenna, a retired administrator, had no direct ties to the union and in his winning primary campaign struck a note of independence in assessing various issues.

But in the end, said Marco Flores, chairman of the union’s political action committee, PACE, members of the union’s House of Representatives “overwhelmingly” preferred McKenna over Alex Johnson, a legislative aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for two reasons.

First, Flores said, McKenna “stood with us” in the aftermath of the Miramonte child abuse scandal, openly opposing Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to pull all teachers out of the school.

“That was inhuman and degrading, and that stuck with our teachers,” Flores said. At the time, McKenna was a superintendent for a region that included Miramonte.

The other reason, Flores said, is that McKenna has emerged as the District 1 community’s favorite, by virtue of his many years as a school administrator and his strong victory in the primary last week. He won with 43.7 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 24.4 percent.

In the primary, the union had endorsed three teacher candidates — Sherlette Hendy-Newbill, Hattie McFrazier and Rachel Johnson — but none of them reached double figures in percentage of the vote. The union supported each with a $1,100 campaign contribution, the maximum, and Flores saids McKenna would get $1,100 from UTLA, as well.

Flores said that a motion was raised tonight to not endorse anyone in the runoff. “But that,” he said, “was overwhelmingly defeated.”

Flores described McKenna as “the choice of the community” and as someone who would work smoothly with the union’s new leadership team “which is all about grass roots.” President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl takes over on July 1.

“It was a natural conclusion,” Flores said. “We stand for community.”

He also said some members held it against Johnson that the majority of independent expenditure money spent on behalf of his primary campaign, more than $54,000 of $80,000, came from a group affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association.

But the choice was more a pro-McKenna vote than anti-Johnson, Flores said.

“Alex is bright, articulate and intelligent,” Flores said. “He’s a good politician. But at this point, we don’t need a politician. We need an educator.”


Adds campaign contribution information.

UTLA wants more than 8 percent, or else (maybe a strike)

UTLA Rally for 8 percent teacher raise LAUSD

Alex Caputo-Pearl (left) and Warren Fletcher (right) at UTLA rally

In a show of unity, UTLA‘s current and incoming presidents waved the prospect of a teachers strike in the coming school year if LA Unified offers anything less than an eight percent raise for the next school year, building to 17.6 percent in years to follow.

Appearing together at an afternoon news conference yesterday, Warren Fletcher and his in-coming successor, Alex Caputo-Pearl, rejected the district’s opening offer of a 2 percent bonus for the current school year plus a 2 percent raise for 2014-15. They said teachers in the first year of a new contract are entitled to at least the same pay level they had in 2008.

Their target is an overall 17.6 percent increase although it’s still unclear over how years they want to reach that level.

Fletcher, who is serving his final month as head of the nation’s second largest local teachers union, contended that a genuine offer by the district would need to reflect the concessions made by teachers and health and human services professionals during the recession.

“Anything less than 8 percent is still working toward restoration,” Fletcher said, to a cheering crowd at UTLA headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. “It’s still working toward breaking even and if we got to that, it still wouldn’t change the fact that during the years of the recession, the cost of living continued to increase.”

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