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LAUSD labor relations lets the sunshine in (kinda)

Jamie Alter Lynton | May 5, 2014

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Screen shot 2014-05-05 at 12.24.50 AMUPDATED*
A committee launched last year by LA Unified’s Office of Labor Relations to provide public information on labor negotiations is meeting today to discuss the district’s collective bargaining contracts. That the committee even exists has not been reported until now.

Called the “Sunshine Committee,” it is intended to bring transparency to the negotiating process. According to a district memo issued last August, the committee’s mission is to provide a forum for parent representatives to review initial bargaining proposals between LAUSD and its labor partners. Among the items on the agenda today are teacher evaluations and an initial bargaining proposal from the principals’ union, AALA.

The formation of the committee signals a policy change for the district, which for years fulfilled its disclosure requirements by giving only minimal public notice at school board meetings, as required by law. Any public access to the secretive negotiation process is a rarity in California, where negotiations with school employee unions is specifically exempted by law from the Brown Act, which requires public access to meetings of local agencies.

In practice, however, the new committee is still a long way from transparent. According to a district staff member, the Sunshine Committee’s meetings are not considered public; no minutes of the meetings are taken; the names of the parent-members appointed to the committee are not publicly available, and information about the contract proposals themselves is not posted on the website.

The staff member said the office is currently updating its website, and some documents relating to past meetings, could not be made available.

In addition to negotiating with the principals union (AALA), LA Unified is expected to enter into labor negotiations with its two largest labor partners SEIU and UTLA in the next few weeks.

Discussions related to collective bargaining issues is one of the few occasions in which school board members may meet or discuss issues outside of public view.

* A previous version of this story stated that a document presented before the committee in August was not available on the LAUSD website. It is, and can be found here.

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