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UTLA wants more than 8 percent, or else (maybe a strike)

Vanessa Romo | June 3, 2014

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UTLA Rally for 8 percent teacher raise LAUSD

Alex Caputo-Pearl (left) and Warren Fletcher (right) at UTLA rally

In a show of unity, UTLA‘s current and incoming presidents waved the prospect of a teachers strike in the coming school year if LA Unified offers anything less than an eight percent raise for the next school year, building to 17.6 percent in years to follow.

Appearing together at an afternoon news conference yesterday, Warren Fletcher and his in-coming successor, Alex Caputo-Pearl, rejected the district’s opening offer of a 2 percent bonus for the current school year plus a 2 percent raise for 2014-15. They said teachers in the first year of a new contract are entitled to at least the same pay level they had in 2008.

Their target is an overall 17.6 percent increase although it’s still unclear over how years they want to reach that level.

Fletcher, who is serving his final month as head of the nation’s second largest local teachers union, contended that a genuine offer by the district would need to reflect the concessions made by teachers and health and human services professionals during the recession.

“Anything less than 8 percent is still working toward restoration,” Fletcher said, to a cheering crowd at UTLA headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. “It’s still working toward breaking even and if we got to that, it still wouldn’t change the fact that during the years of the recession, the cost of living continued to increase.”

Chants of “17.6” erupted from UTLA members who were dressed in red outside the building. Conversely, they hissed at every mention of Superintendent John Deasy and the district’s recent proposal.

Caputo-Pearl urged educators to ensure that every school elects a UTLA Chapter Chair by the end of the week. “The chapter chairs, vice chairs and co-chairs and the steering committees around them are the backbone to building up to the place where we will use a strike if we need to,” he said.

Mindful of the last time teachers walked out in a contract dispute, in 1989, Fletcher said, “A strike is always an extraordinary action, but a strike is always on the table.”

Vivian Ekchian, LA Unified’s chief labor negotiator, told LA School Report, “The next step is to schedule another meeting with UTLA’s negotiating team.

Ekchian has proposed four possible dates between July 9 through August 21.

But Betty Forrester, a UTLA vice president who is the union’s chief labor negotiator, said those dates are not soon enough.

“We want to meet in June before the school board votes on the final budget,” she said.

But with the next board meeting scheduled for June 10, that is unlikely to happen, leaving open the almost certainty that the district budget for 2014-2015 will be finalized with little more for teachers than what the district has already offered.

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