Teachers say ‘Y’ not us?

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week A separate round of negotiations for a brand new contract will begin in the spring, when Duffy plans to ask for even bigger salary increases. He said the district could come up with the money by cutting down on its bureaucracy. Measure Y passed with an overwhelming 66 percent of the vote when it only needed 55 percent and Duffy argues it could not have succeeded without the union’s grass-roots efforts. But district officials say there’s not enough money in the budget to meet union demands and reject any connection between union support of the bond measure and salary talks. “The reality is that the teachers union that helped pass the bond gets direct benefits from it, and I’m not sure if and how we’re supposed to take that somewhere beyond what we’re already looking at in increasing compensation,” board member Mike Lansing said. “We’re already trying to get to a fair and equitable position on (the salary hikes) as much as we can given our limitations.” The head of the Los Angeles teachers union has sent Los Angeles Unified officials a clear message: We supported your $4 billion Measure Y construction bond initiative, now it’s your turn to meet our pay demands – or face the consequences. The threat from United Teachers Los Angeles President A.J. Duffy comes amid district negotiations with the union for salary increases in the third and final year of its contract. The district’s last offer was a 1.5 percent pay hike, contingent on the bond measure passing – but Duffy wants twice that and wants a deal by January. “If they play games with me on that 3 percent, then we will not be able to come to an agreement and we will continue to build our capacity to take action, and come this spring, they’re going to be very surprised at the kinds of activities that we’re going to start initiating,” Duffy said Monday. Promising more militant action, Duffy was elected to lead the union in March in a huge upset. He ousted John Perez, who was seen by many teachers as not being tough enough with the district in fighting for teachers. “This time around, let’s face it, without our money and our folks on the phone and precinct-walking, (Measure) Y would have died,” Duffy said. “We put time and effort and money and convinced the California Teachers Association to put money into it, and I will certainly not lose any opportunity to let the district know that we are partners, and that at the very least I expect to be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.” Duffy said his union supported the bond initiative because it was good for teachers and students since it would allow the district to complete its ambitious $20 billion construction and renovation program. The program includes 160 new schools, renovating hundreds of others and putting all students on a traditional, nine-month calendar. UTLA donated $75,000 to the campaign, and urged the California Teachers Association to do the same. It also put 700 members on the streets and on phones to spread the message, Duffy said. The passage of the bond measure prevented the district from having to find an additional $40 million for the general fund to pay for operating expenses such as teacher salaries, classroom materials and routine maintenance. But the district’s current offer is about as high as it can realistically go given its finances, board member Jon Lauritzen said. “Obviously, the fact that Measure Y passed bodes well for making a reasonable settlement with the unions,” he said. “It is getting really expensive to live in Los Angeles and most of our employees are way below market value. But at this point, I think the unions are realistic that we just don’t have a lot of money sitting around right now.” The idea that unions now have a strong bargaining chip is true, but it doesn’t mean that the district will give in to demands during negotiations, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, political analyst at University of Southern California. “The teachers union has long been a power in LAUSD affairs and will continue to be a power in LAUSD affairs. The unions are smart enough to use it as a bargaining chip, but the district has to come back with an offer and the union has to accept or not accept what they come back with,” Jeffe said. “The ultimate bargaining chip is the threat of a strike.” Duffy called the election cycle a “blessing in disguise,” because it helped the union organize more than 200 school sites and start building its capacity to reach out to school sites and community groups. “We’re building our capacity to take action in the spring. In the meantime, if they don’t deal with me fairly, then they’re losing an opportunity to be a partner. They can decide which way they want it,” he said. Duffy, who has made a show of a united front with district officials since he took office this summer, said the district should also be mindful of his support and maintaining a partnership as they face a takeover challenge by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “There’s another issue here they need to pay attention to – the mayor is still talking about taking over the school district, so I think it would be to the benefit of the school board members, who are elected officials, to go with the district and make sure they deal with UTLA in a fair manner,” Duffy said. Naush Boghossian, (818) 713-3722 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more