After months of threatening to strike over contract negotiations, the president of the United Teachers Los Angeles announced today that teachers would strike on Jan. 10.
“Over 20 months we have exhausted all bargaining options,” said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl in a news conference. “We have not had a genuine bargaining partner in the district; almost no legitimate proposals from the district.”
Union leaders have sought a 6.5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 1, 2016, along with class-size reductions, fewer required tests, and more school nurses, counselors, social workers, and librarians. In its final offer, the Los Angeles Unified school district has offered a 6 percent pay raise for all teachers, which includes a 3 percent retroactive raise for the past school year, along with class-size reductions in a handful of high-needs schools, and additional pay for teachers taking professional-development courses. Union leaders called the district’s offer “insulting.”
“We’re not going to go back to the table,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We’ve reached the point where enough is enough.”
Unless the district makes a new offer that meets the union’s demands, teachers will strike three days after students return from winter break. (Schools are currently closed.)
Back in September, union members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. This will be the first strike in the nation’s second-largest district since 1989.
See also: Teacher Strikes: 4 Common Questions
Last month, the state convened a three-member fact-finding panel, led by a neutral mediator. The panel released its non-binding recommendations this week, counting 21 categories of issues still in dispute.
"[T]here seems to have been almost no progress made on any issue,” wrote David Weinberg, the neutral chairman. “This makes it particularly difficult for the neutral panel member ... to provide a final recommendation for settlement of the dispute.”
He noted the tension between the union’s demands and the district’s financial reality. The union has accused the district of “hoarding” its $1.8 billion reserve fund.
Weinberg recommended that the union accept the district’s offer of a 6 percent salary increase for teachers. He also recommended that the district and the union work together to calculate average class size, saying that while he agrees with the union that lower class sizes could improve teaching and student success, it’s hard to make a final recommendation since the district’s numbers on class sizes differ than those of the union.
In a statement before the strike date was announced, the district held out hope for a reasonable settlement of everything in dispute. “Los Angeles Unified does not want a strike—which only UTLA can authorize—as a strike would harm students, families, and communities most in need,” the statement said.
The district has said that schools would remain open during a strike, and the more than 600,000 students in the district would continue to receive classroom instruction by substitute employees and school administrators.
“If we strike, it will be a strike for our students, and it will be a strike with our parents,” Caputo-Pearl said.
In the half-dozen statewide walkouts and strikes this spring, parents were largely supportive of the fight for teacher pay raises and more school funding—indicative of a growing swell of support for teachers. But in Los Angeles, district parents feel torn and frustrated about the impending strike, LA School Report has reported. They are concerned about their children’s safety and the quality of instruction during a strike, although they say they love and support teachers.
Image: United Teachers Los Angeles members rally outside the Broad Museum downtown Los Angeles on Dec. 15. —Damian Dovarganes/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.