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LA Teachers Union Has Pushed Possible Strike Date To Monday

Members and supporters of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing L.A. Unified School District teachers, wave signs during a demonstration along Firestone Boulevard in South Gate on Weds., Oct. 24, 2018. (Photo by Kyle Stokes/KPCC)
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United Teachers Los Angeles is postponing its strike until Monday, Jan. 14., at the soonest. The decision was announced this morning, with UTLA citing uncertainty about how a judge would rule on the legality of its original (Jan. 10) strike date.

In court on Thursday morning, though, Los Angeles Unified School District attorneys plan to ask a judge for an even longer delay in the strike date for an unspecified number of days or perhaps even weeks. In court filings, the district's legal team argued that union officials botched the order in which they rolled out their strike plans.

If L.A. Unified's arguments prevail in court, a judge could scramble months' worth of strike planning by union leaders. It could also provide more time to negotiate a deal. The district's filing said a 2009 ruling on similar grounds blocked a one-day strike UTLA had planned and ultimately paved the way to a settlement.

UTLA announced its strike date at a Dec. 19, 2018, press conference. But the district's attorneys will argue that the union didn't give formal notice of its intent to terminate the contract until, at best, Jan. 3.

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In effect, LAUSD attorneys will argue the order of those two actions should be reversed: that the law says union leadership should have given notice first, then announced their strike date.

We've asked UTLA to comment on the district's filing and will update this post if they offer a response.

UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl has previously criticized the notion that the union didn't give enough lead time for the district to prepare for a strike. At a Monday press conference, he noted that word of the union's strike date announcement on Dec. 19 was spread widely by reporters and through social media.

Caputo-Pearl also noted that district officials "went around the city saying we were striking" in October -- likely a reference to the warnings of an imminent strike that had spread based on a misunderstood op-ed by a UTLA member in the L.A. Times.

Before word of the district's most recent court filings was made public, UTLA leaders faulted LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner for attempting to delay the strike through last-minute procedural moves. The district recently went to court in an attempt to block special education members from striking; a judge turned them down.

"While we believe we would eventually win in court against all of [LAUSD Superintendent] Austin Beutner's anti-union, high-priced attempts to stop our legal right to strike," reads a statement by UTLA, "in order for clarity and to allow members, parents, and our communities to plan, UTLA is moving the strike date to Monday, January 14."

For nearly two years, LAUSD and UTLA have been unable to come to an agreement over lightning-rod issues such as salaries, class sizes, and the hiring of more nurses and librarians. In the run-up to the original strike date, a short-lived lawsuit and a filing snafu have caused unrest and confusion among LAUSD parents who've been hoping for more certainty. UTLA says it hopes the postponement helps address some of that anxiety.

"We do not want to bring confusion and chaos into an already fluid situation," the UTLA statement says.


KPCC/LAist editor Mike Kessler contributed to this story.

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