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Antonucci: It will be a busy spring at UTLA

Mike Antonucci | March 6, 2018

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report. 

United Teachers Los Angeles spent the early months of 2018 promoting and then celebrating the ratification of their healthcare agreement with the Los Angeles Unified School District. But if school board members think this bought them some time and good will when it comes to contract negotiations, they should think again.

UTLA has nothing if not grand plans for education policy in the city and beyond. It begins with the current teacher contract talks, which began on February 1 and recur every two weeks. So far bargaining has been limited to side issues, but the union is already setting the stage for drastic action.

The UTLA bargaining team was unhappy with the lack of district response to its proposal on charter school co-locations, informing members, “It’s clear that LAUSD’s policy is being run by the corrupt four-member school board majority, which is content to degrade programs at district schools to allow the invasion of charters through co-location.”

The union added, “Collective member action will be needed to force change at the bargaining table.”

This is already in the planning stage, as UTLA’s Spring 2018 Action Plan calls for “escalating actions and a major citywide action in May.” The union also expressed full-throated support for SEIU Local  99’s strike authorization vote, mentioning UTLA members’ right to “engage in sympathy and solidarity activities.” SEIU represents school cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, and special education assistants.

While all that is going on, UTLA will be contacting members in an effort to get them to sign the new UTLA application form, which would require them to continue paying dues “irrespective of my membership in UTLA.” This is part of a nationwide effort by teacher unions to retain revenues in case of an adverse ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which would eliminate mandatory agency fees paid by non-members.

If that weren’t enough, the union will be a major source of signature gathering for a ballot initiative that would repeal Proposition 13 property tax protections on commercial and industrial real estate. California’s school unions hope to add $11 billion annually to the education budget through this measure.

And that doesn’t even include the governor’s and state schools superintendent’s races, where UTLA and its allies will be campaigning vigorously for Gavin Newsom and Tony Thurmond, respectively.

UTLA’s plans are a daunting challenge for union opponents, but we should not expect everything to go according to those plans. Back in 2016, UTLA had a master plan to win a majority on the LAUSD school board and coordinate contract bargaining with other large teacher unions in the state, with an eye to building their “capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018.”

None of that happened, but I suspect UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl really has his heart set on a teacher strike, regardless of the terms offered by the district. In any event, I would not hold out hope for an early settlement. That doesn’t get your picture in the papers.

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