JUST IN: Cortines warns UTLA to abandon boycott of faculty meetings
Craig Clough | March 18, 2015
Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for the LA School Report newsletter.
LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines warned the teachers union, UTLA, today that urging its members to boycott three upcoming faculty meetings violates the terms of a directive from the Public Employees Employment Board.
In a harshly-worded statement Cortines said attending the meetings is “a required professional duty under the LAUSD-UTLA contract agreement” and a boycott would violate a 1990 directive issued by PERB that arose out of “previous unlawful boycotts of required duties.”
That order, he asserted, “still holds today.”
Cortines’s warning came in response to a “Chapter talking points” memo dated March 10 posted to UTLA’s website that states, “Every UTLA Area will be holding afterschool meetings for chapter chairs and activists to plan faculty meeting boycotts in March and April and ensure 100% participation. The meetings are expected to last from 60 to 90 minutes.”
In addition to the press release, Cortines made the same points in separate letters to UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and to LA Unified employees.
“Nothing could be more detrimental to the extraordinary educational progress that this District has made in recent years,” Cortines said in the statement. “As we await the involvement of a mediator in negotiations, I urge UTLA to stop this irresponsible and unlawful effort, and instead work with the District to complete negotiations so that all employees can devote their entire focus to the District’s core mission of educating students and ensuring student safety.”
The union responded to Cortines late this afternoon with a statement that said the boycotts represent another of its “escalating actions” to achieve negotiating demands.
“UTLA members have boycotted faculty meetings many times in past years and we have no intention of backing down now because of threats by Cortines to retaliate against employees who participate,” the statement said.
The union and the district are currently in contentious contract negotiations that were recently declared to be in an impasse as the sides remain an estimated $800 million apart on key issues like teacher pay and class size. Over the last six months, the union has ramped up pressure with a series of monthly actions that have included press conferences, picketing at schools and a large rally last month attended by thousands in downtown’s Grand Park.
However, no “escalating actions” for the month of March had been announced by UTLA, and Cortines in his statement expressed hope that boycotting faculty meetings wasn’t the next step. LA School Report reached out to Caputo-Pearl earlier this week to learn if more such actions were planned for March but did not receive a response.
Cortines said he was concerned that the meeting boycotts could be “the first step . . . toward a planned strike against our students, parents, and school communities.”
In his letter to Caputo-Pearl from Cortines warned: “Pursuant to this contractual commitment, coupled with the attached 1990 PERB Decision and Order referenced above, we must insist that UTLA now take all reasonable steps to cease and avert the current UTLA-threatened boycott of faculty meetings.”
*Updated to include information from UTLA’s website about the planned boycotts, and UTLA’s response to Cortines’s warning.