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Los Angeles Teachers Vote To Authorize Strike

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Members of the United Teachers-Los Angeles last week voted overwhelmingly to authorize their board of directors to call a strike if union leaders are unable to negotiate a salary agreement with the city's school board.

More than 19,000 of the union's 22,000 members rejected the board's latest offer and said they would support a walkout "if and when it is necessary for settlement,'' said Catherine M. Carey, the director of communications for the U.T.L.A.

The union is attempting to fend off a 9 percent pay cut proposed by the board earlier this year. That cut would be in addition to a 3 percent reduction agreed to last year.

Budget Crisis

Crippled by a continuing budget crisis, the nation's second-largest district could suffer its second teachers' strike in three years.

In 1989, Los Angeles teachers staged a walkout when the school board and union leaders were unable to resolve a contract dispute.

The 11-day strike, which kept many of the district's 600,000 students out of class, ended when the parties agreed on a three-year contract that provided teachers with an 8 percent pay raise and more authority to decide how their schools would operate.

The U.T.L.A. and the district have been trying to negotiate a contract since Sept. 15.

According to Ms. Carey, teachers' union members are not asking for a salary hike.

"We just want to hang onto what we've got,'' she said. "We know [the district is] in financial distress.''

Leticia Quezada, the president of the school board, said she thinks negotiations between the parties will continue uninterrupted.

"People are angry, but a strike really doesn't win anything,'' Ms. Quezada said. "It's a lose-lose situation ... for the teachers and for the kids.''

After the strike authorization vote, Helen Bernstein, the union's president, asked district officials to "immediately resume intense negotiations'' with the U.T.L.A. bargaining team.

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