Teaching Profession

With Contract Negotiations at Impasse, Los Angeles Teachers Edge Closer to Strike

By Stephen Sawchuk — February 23, 2015 2 min read
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The Los Angeles district and its teachers’ union have hit a formal impasse in contract negotiations, with pay and teacher evaluation among the top issues.

The impasse means that the state’s Public Employment Relations Board will appoint a mediator, and then a fact-finder who can make recommendations on a resolution. But those recommendations aren’t binding, and United Teachers Los Angeles has warned that it won’t settle for an agreement that takes a piecemeal approach to the contract.

All this means that the nation’s second-largest union affiliate has inched a bit closer towards a strike, and indeed, UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl has been making the case for a strike for months now.

Los Angeles teachers have had a rough time of it in the Great Recession, with no salary increases for years and round after round of pink slips sent out and rescinded. Teachers also agreed to furloughs to stave off layoffs in the 2012-13 school year. But despite nearly 20 bargaining sessions over the past few months, the two parties remain far apart.

Pay is the biggest sticking point. The union wants to see an 8.5 percent raise retroactive to July 2014, with the possibility of another raise in 2015-16, and wants to hire some 5,000 new teachers to reduce class sizes. It says that budget increases, such as those provided through the state’s new funding formula, should make those increases possible. But the district says it simply can’t afford those proposals. Its most recent counter-offer was for a 5 percent increase and for spending $26 million to reduce class sizes. In all, the district says, there is an $800 million gap between the union’s demands and what the district has proposed.

But there are other disagreements troubling the waters as well. In the wake of a January labor ruling saying that the district impermissibly imposed a new teacher-evaluation system, United Teachers wants to scrap the system and start over. The district wants to preserve some of its features, such as maintaining at least three different ratings categories. The two sides also have differences about reassignment policies for “housed” teachers accused of sexual misconduct. And the district wants “flexible caps” on class size, while UTLA wants firm ones.

You can (try to) keep up with the proposals and counterproposals at the UTLA website and at LAUSD’s page. And see this Associated Press story for news on a rally teachers are holding this week in Los Angeles’ Grand Park.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.