Teacher strike de­layed in sec­ond-largest US school district

Porterville Recorder - - STATE - By CHRISTO­PHER WE­BER

LOS AN­GE­LES — The union rep­re­sent­ing teach­ers in Los An­ge­les — the na­tion's sec­ond­largest school district — post­poned the start of a strike un­til Mon­day be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity of a court-or­dered de­lay of a walk­out.

United Teach­ers Los An­ge­les pre­vi­ously said its 35,000 mem­bers would walk off the job Thurs­day for the first time in 30 years if a deal wasn't reached on higher pay and smaller class sizes.

How­ever, a judge was con­sid­er­ing Wed­nes­day whether the union gave legally proper no­tice of a strike and could have or­dered teach­ers to wait.

Union of­fi­cials said they be­lieve they would have pre­vailed in court but de­cided to post­pone a strike to avoid con­fu­sion and give teach­ers, par­ents and oth­ers time to pre­pare.

The Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School District, with 640,000 stu­dents, said the de­lay pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to keep talk­ing and avoid a strike.

Teach­ers are hop­ing to build on the "Red4ed" move­ment that be­gan last year in West Vir­ginia, where a strike re­sulted in a sig­nif­i­cant raise.

It moved to Ok­la­homa, Ken­tucky, Ari­zona, Colorado and Wash­ing­ton state, spread­ing from con­ser­va­tive states with "right to work" laws that limit the abil­ity to strike to the more lib­eral West Coast with strong unions.

"What you're see­ing with unions is real en­thu­si­asm and a be­lief that you can ac­tu­ally be suc­cess­ful," said Robert Bruno, a pro­fes­sor of la­bor and em­ploy­ment re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois. "The ed­u­ca­tional sec­tor is rife with deep griev­ance and frus­tra­tion, but there's now a sense that you can ac­tu­ally win."

The walk­outs in other states em­bold­ened or­ga­nized la­bor af­ter a crit­i­cal de­feat at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled last year that gov­ern­ment work­ers can't be re­quired to join unions and pay dues.

"Each state is dif­fer­ent, but the com­mon­al­ity across all states is teach­ers, and par­ents are sick of schools not be­ing in­vested in," union Pres­i­dent Alex Ca­puto-pearl said.

The Los An­ge­les district has of­fered a 6 per­cent raise over the first two years of a three­year con­tract. The union wants a 6.5 per­cent hike that would take ef­fect all at once and be retroac­tive to fis­cal 2017. Health care fully paid by the district and a pen­sion plan would be un­changed un­der both pro­pos­als.

The union also wants sig­nif­i­cantly smaller class sizes, which rou­tinely top 30 stu­dents, and more nurses, li­brar­i­ans and coun­selors to "fully staff" the district's cam­puses in Los An­ge­les and all or parts of 31 smaller ci­ties, plus sev­eral un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas.

The district has said the union's de­mands could bank­rupt the school sys­tem, which is pro­ject­ing a half-bil­lion-dol­lar deficit this bud­get year and has bil­lions ob­li­gated for pen­sion pay­ments and health cov­er­age for re­tired teach­ers.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions were con­tin­u­ing, but lit­tle progress was ev­i­dent in the con­tract dis­pute.

AP PHOTO BY JAE C. HONG

Manuela Pan­joj, 42-year-old mother of five chil­dren, holds a sign dur­ing a news con­fer­ence out­side the Los An­ge­les Uni­fied School District head­quar­ters Wed­nes­day, Jan. 9, in Los An­ge­les, Calif.

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