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LA Teachers Threaten Strike, Demand $800 Million

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Los Angeles’s 35,ooo-member teachers union has taken the first step towards a strike by declaring it is at an impasse in contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District. It’s demanding $800 million for salary hikes and new teacher hires, the latter of which would promise a huge financial boon for the union.

By declaring the negotiations at an impasse, United Teachers Los Angeles has put the city just weeks away from its first teacher strike since 1989. If California’s Public Employment Relations Board agrees with UTLA’s impasse declaration, an appointed mediator will be brought in. According to the LA School Report, the process will take about a month, ending in either a successful agreement or a strike.

UTLA has been hankering with LAUSD for over seven months in an effort to craft a new contract for the union. It’s demanding an 8.5 percent salary boost to compensate for eight years without a raise. In addition, it wants the city to hire 5,000 additional teachers with the stated goal of cutting class sizes, a workforce expansion the city says would cost $525 million a year.

City officials have offered a 5 percent raise with few new teacher hires, an offer union leaders have flatly rejected.

“UTLA will not accept a piecemeal agreement that addresses only one or two issues, which fails to improve student learning conditions and educator working conditions,” the union said in a statement.

The overall gap in annual spending between the two sides is a dramatic $800 million. LAUSD’s current budget is about $6.6 billion.

If it gets its way on new teacher hires, UTLA stands to reap a big windfall. A full-time membership in the union costs $689, meaning that 5,000 new teachers could bring the union as much as $3.4 million a year in extra dues.

UTLA has reason to believe it can break the city. Its 1989 strike was a huge success, yielding three consecutive 8 percent raises.

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