Union President Says Strike Could Help Win Teacher Pay Raises
LA School Report | October 24, 2013
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Could a teacher strike be on the horizon?
In ratcheting up pressure on LA Unified to negotiate for salary increases for its members, UTLA President Warren Fletcher is raising the specter of a strike as a way to force the issue.
He writes in the latest issue of the union’s monthly, United Teacher, “In any escalating series of labor actions, the final step, the ultimate weapon, is a strike. This is a step that is never taken lightly, and that, of course, is never entered into without overwhelming member support.”
It’s not the first time he raised the possibility.
In advocating for a union initiative back earlier this year that called for an array of changes, he cited for the same “escalating actions” for teacher raises as well as rehiring recession-RIFed teachers.
But the “single focus” of a union-planned rally at LA Unified headquarters on Nov. 13, as he wrote in United Teacher and in his President’s Perspective on the UTLA website, is to press for salary increases this year. There was no mention of rehiring teachers, which is an issue that has the support of Superintendent John Deasy while the school board favors bringing back teachers.
Fletcher is running for re-election against two challengers, David Garcia and Alex Caputo-Pearl. Garcia suggested that Fletcher’s tactics may be driven more by politics than policy.
“Warren hasn’t defended the rights of teachers, students, the community—or anyone for that matter,” Garcia said in an email. “Warren Fletcher is suggesting ‘stronger action’ because he wants to use this event as an opportunity to publicly announce his intention of running for re-election.”
He added, “I think this has more to do with opportunism, posturing and political theater than it has to do with the rights of teachers and our students.”
Caputo-Pearl said he favors pay raises but pressing for them within a more holistic strategy.
“Area and school site leaders have been pushing Mr. Fletcher to be more aggressive around a pay increase for well over a year,” he said in an email. “But, our approach needs to be different from the one-issue, one-off-rally approach. Our contract has been expired for over 2 years. We need to open our contract, and organize our members, the other unions, parents, and community to fight for what schools urgently need right now, with crystal clear demands.”
They include, he said, “a multi-year pay increase, class size reduction, full staffing, educator/community control over professional development, expanded student programs including social and emotional support for students, and an end to LAUSD’s witch-hunt in ‘teacher jails.’ ”