Red is the New Yes: Teachers Strike Stalled Due to Legal Impasse

by Hunter Tidwell-Prediletto

In our last issue, we reported the various issues that drove the upcoming teachers’ strike in LA. The scheduled date was the beginning of October, but it was postponed due to the lengthy legal process behind union action. Mr. Montamayor, UTLA chapter chair, estimates that we have about a month and a half before action is permitted, sometime around late November.

The legal process consists of 5 stages: sunshining, negotiation, impasse, mediation, and fact-finding. Sunshining is the declaration of initial proposals (legal documents that propose things like pay, schedule, class size, and funding) in the hopes of forming a contract (the final, legal documentation of proposed numbers.)

More often than not, the interests of the union and the district are different, and when disagreements arise, negotiations take place. Negotiations are meetings in which people on either side of an issue aim to create a contract that both can agree on. Some negotiations lead nowhere; one or both sides are hard-wired in their proposals and refuse to compromise. In this event, a side will declare impasse. Impasse essentially states that no progress is being made towards forming a contract, and mediation becomes an option. Mediation is the same as negotiation, but it’s catalyzed and assisted by a neutral third party. In the case that mediation doesn’t work, fact-finding begins.

Fact-finding is similar to a trial. Either side presents factual, statistical data that compares to data from other districts to overcome impasse and hopefully form a contract. A panel analyzes the presented information and releases something called a “finding of fact,” in other words, a final attempt at an agreement between the two parties. If the sides still disagree, then union action becomes an option.

We’re currently in the fact-finding phase, and if all works out, our teachers will get the benefits they’re searching for. A strike is very likely to occur, but it’s also possible, and preferable, for an agreement to be reached between teachers and the district.

So far, the district hasn’t budged in terms of our proposals. They haven’t sought compromise and their proposals have taken little of our needs into account. They really haven’t left us with many options, then.

There are conflicting claims coming from LAUSD’s statements and those of financial reports. In a statement released this August, the district claimed that its reserves were at 1.2 billion dollars. However, a financial statement released in September shows that they actually have 1.86 billion dollars in reserves. It’s bad practice to lie, but the numbers are excessive: the state only requires a 1% reserve, but the district’s currently at 26.5%. While it’s possible to claim the money’s for emergency purposes, there’s no proof of an imminent financial emergency, and there hasn’t really been one since the recession.

The district has claimed numerous times that they’re living off this fund, but the stacks only ever seem to grow higher. Reserves shot up a billion dollars over the course of four years, from 700 million in 2014. The district claims that they’re on the brink of financial collapse, but the numbers claim otherwise. They refuse to release data related to their income and seem to ignore the needs of our teachers and staff. They’ve spent around $32 million on irrelevant testing and took $416 million out of our supplies budget last year. Furthermore, the charter industry takes $600 million out of our public schools yearly. If LAUSD really is in the midst of a financial crisis, they’re handling their money terribly. How can they pay for all this while teachers struggle to afford housing? LA’s cost of living has gone up 32% since 2008.

Without public schools, education quality would be determined by the amount of money your parents make. Divisions would cut deeper and equal opportunity wouldn’t exist. We have to keep up the struggle for equality, take the reins of justice and fight for what’s right.