L.A. Union Approves Feb. Strike Date Over Pay Cut

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Members of the United Teachers-Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly last week to begin walking off the job Feb. 22 rather than accept a 9 percent pay cut included in the school district's last contract offer.

Almost 80 percent of the union's 22,000 members voted to approve the strike measure, just days after closed meetings with state mediators failed to bring union and district officials any closer to an agreement.

"Teachers and support-services personnel voted today to put students back first in priorities,'' Helen Bernstein, the U.T.L.A.'s president, said in a statement. "We are demanding that [district] officials meet with us and a mediator to settle this crisis.''

District officials were unavailable for comment last Friday.

The U.T.L.A. and the Los Angeles Unified School District are to make another attempt to settle the dispute when they go before the state's labor board on Jan. 19 in an effort to determine whether either side has engaged in bad-faith bargaining.

The Public Employment Relations Board, which has the legal power to enforce labor laws in public school districts, also was expected late last week to consider the union's request that the board seek a court order on its behalf blocking the cuts, according to Thomas Allen, a lawyer with PERB.

The union earlier won a temporary restraining order in Los Angeles superior court that barred the district from adding the 9 percent pay cut to the 3 percent it trimmed from teachers' salaries last year.

But the court ruled Nov. 25 that it had no jurisdiction in the dispute and referred the matter to PERB.

$400 Million Gap

The contract battle began when the school board voted Oct. 2 to cut the salaries of about 32,000 teachers and cx0 el10lother employees in order to close a $400 million budget gap in the nation's second-largest school district.

Though the union announced in October its intention to vote on a strike "if and when it is necessary,'' the U.T.L.A. and district negotiators continued to seek a compromise.

However, the district and the union were unable to agree on the cost-saving measures the union was proposing as an alternative to the pay cuts.

The union also fought for a guarantee that teachers' salaries would not be cut again next year. But, in the district's "last and best offer,'' officials said they could promise not to cut pay only if state aid remains at current levels.

Vol. 12, Issue 15

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