What Comes Next?

UTLA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, but negotiations are continuing. It might not even happen at all.



Teacher’s union members overwhelming voted to authorize a strike. Officials counted ballots in late August.

By Gina Kim and Mhar Tenorio

Even though UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) voted to authorize a strike against LAUSD at the end of August, it remains unclear if or when the strike will take place.

Since teachers voted overwhelmingly to strike, there has been a series of mediation sessions between the district and UTLA.

The first mediation was held on Sept. 27th after numerous efforts by UTLA to get the district to participate. Details remain confidential, but neither side was willing to make any concessions.

The second mediation was held on Oct. 3rd. During the session, UTLA accused Superintendent Austin Beutner of holding meetings with charter school supporters at expensive restaurants. UTLA representatives also questioned whether or not an LAUSD credit card was used and if Superintendent Beutner is showing favoritism to school privatization movement advocates.

As of now, the district’s contract offer remains unsatisfactory to UTLA negotiators, so more talks are expected in the future. The district’s latest offer to teachers is a 3 percent retroactive raise and a 3 percent bonus. The union is seeking an annual 6.5 percent raise.

UTLA also wants smaller class sizes in all schools. In response, LAUSD offered class size reductions in only 15 middle schools and 75 elementary schools. The union argues that their offer would have little impact.

Since the first two mediation sessions proved unsuccessful, a third session is scheduled for Oct.12.

“I don’t have any reason for optimism that they will settle it Oct. 12th,” UTLA representative and school chapter chair Mr. Robert Crosby said.

“I foresee them declaring impasse again and then they will go through fact-finding.”

Fact-finding is the next step after mediation efforts fail. A special independent committee is authorized to look into the arguments on both sides to help provide a fair resolution to the problem. This can take up to six weeks and may last until late November or early December, according to Mr. Crosby.

Only after fact-finding can a strike take place.

If the district chooses to file a declaration of an impasse—when a resolution cannot be met—if the Oct. 12 mediation session fails followed by a six-week long fact-finding, the district can then technically impose a contract on teachers. The earliest they could do this would be in December. At that point, union officials can authorize a strike.

“That won’t happen,” Mr. Crosby said. “We’re not gonna strike in December. So if there’s going to be a strike the earliest that strike would be probably sometime in January.”

The possibility that the strike may never occur still remains, however.

If the strike does occur, students can expect teachers not to show up to teach. Instead they will be picketing in front of the school with signs. Most teachers will not be in the classroom.

Nonetheless, students are expected to report to school and attend their classes.

“Students should certainly remain in class even though the teacher is not present,” said Assistant Principal Ms. Judith Bakenhus.

If students are absent, it has a negative impact on our student’s attendance rate and it has a negative impact on our funding because that’s how we get our funds.”

Should the strike extend to a prolonged period, the district will most likely intervene to assist students.

“Parents want their kids to go to school and be engaged in learning and if the teachers are not there, it’s hard to do that,” Ms. Bakenhus said. “But I’m sure we’ll do everything we possibly can to ensure that the students who do come will learn something.”