Exposed: UTLA and LAUSD Colluded … So Says PERB

EDUCATION POLITICS-In the recent February 29 decision of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in favor of substitute teachers rights, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) has finally been held accountable for its leadership's longstanding incestuous relationship with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD.) 

The opinion in this case shows that there has been a brazen violation of the contractual rights of substitute teachers under the LAUSD-UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement. This open collusion between LAUSD and UTLA was accomplished by non-public "side letters" entered into by UTLA presidents and others at UTLA with their counterparts at LAUSD – agreements that were in complete contradiction of rights guaranteed by the LAUSD-UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

Reading this decision shows how the UTLA leadership sold out substitutes, preventing them from working the 100 days that would qualify them for health benefits. One wonders if these same practices have been used in LAUSD's concerted attack and removal of thousands of teachers over the last seven years – teachers whose only "crime" was being at the top of the salary scale with expensive benefits that were putting LAUSD in the red. 

This decision describes in excruciating detail how UTLA leadership has historically used these “side letters” to negotiate with LAUSD leadership, changing the vested in-force collective bargaining contractual rights of teachers. All this was done without the ratification by appropriate entities such as Boards of Directors, Committees, House of Representatives, or the rank-and-file. 

The 113-page PERB decision shows that the UTLA administration had much more loyalty to the LAUSD administration (and their own careers) than they ever had to the teachers they were supposed to represent. Administrators of both LAUSD and UTLA are cut from the same cloth…escapees from what has become the untenable LAUSD classrooms filled with predictable disruption caused by socially promoted students. No wonder they are so hostile toward those who still attempt to be teachers. 

When Past President A.J. Duffy described the "relationship of trust he had developed with LAUSD's human resources staff, above all, [Chief Human Resources Officer Vivian] Ekchian," I couldn't help but remember that Ekchian's name is on all dismissal letters received by thousands of teachers over the last few years as a result of a process presuming them guilty of fabricated charges. Both Duffy and Ekchian seem to have been unfettered by the well-being of teachers involved. Both must know that these teachers have done nothing to justify being targeted and removed from their jobs. 

According to the evidence in this case, LAUSD used displaced teachers with and without tenure as substitutes in lieu of regular substitutes. This enabled them to kill two birds with one stone: save on healthcare costs for substitutes and stop regular teachers from reaching tenure -- or, if they already had tenure and had been displaced, to keep them from obtaining a fixed position within three years. 

"Compensation for such substitute assignments shall be at the base rate or extended rate (as eligible) as set forth in Article XIX of the collective bargaining agreement." So LAUSD not only was able to stop substitutes from attaining health benefits for a 100 days of service, it was also able to pay displaced teachers far less than what it would have had to pay them in a regular teaching position. According to the case, "the District also began tracking substitutes' hours with respect to their health benefits eligibility." 

Add to this a warning to school principals not to hire these displaced substitute teachers even if a regular position opened at their school. This provides a fairly clear picture of what has been going on.

The bottom line here is: "UTLA violated its own policies and its duty of fair representation under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) by secretly negotiating with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD or District) for a side letter agreement (July Side Letter) to alter the collectively-bargained seniority rights used for assigning substitute teaching work. UTLA breached its duty of fair representation in violation of EERA sections 3543.1, subdivision (a), 3543.6, subdivision (b ), and 3544.9 by negotiating a side letter to UTLA's collective bargaining agreement with LAUSD in secret without consultation or input from Charging Parties, and in violation of UTLA' s internal rules and that the July Side Letter had a substantial negative impact on Charging Parties' employment relationship."


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.