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LAUSD strike may have been illegal, says labor board

The just-concluded three-day strike that shut down Los Angeles public schools may have been illegal, according to complaints filed by state regulators, setting the stage for the district’s case against the two unions that pulled out to proceed to a formal hearing.

The actions of the California Public Employment Relations Board do not mean that the unions acted illegally. Instead, regulators concluded that the Los Angeles Unified School District had made a strong enough case to move to the next stage of the legal process.

The labor board actions came before the district and Service Employees International Union Local 99 reached a tentative agreement Friday afternoon with the union. Business could continue even if the contractual dispute is settled. Sometimes these disputes are dropped through contract resolution. It was not immediately clear whether the case was part of the deal.

The three-day strike, which ended Thursday, was led by Local 99, which represents about 30,000 school district employees, including bus drivers, catering workers, teacher’s aides, special education assistants, guards and security aides. United Teachers Los Angeles has urged its members to participate in the strike, a collaboration that the school system says has forced schools to close. UTLA represents approximately 35,000 teachers, therapists, counsellors, nurses and librarians.

The labor board filed a separate action, called a complaint, against each union.

Ellen Wu, an outside attorney for LA Unified, said a final court ruling on district labor board cases is important to ensure accountability for compliance with state law, even if the strike has come. and left.

Because the unions withdrew before the end of the negotiation process, “not only have innocent children and their families been taken hostage and suffered terribly over the past three days”, she said, but the unions have “put LAUSD in an impossible situation”.

“If there are no consequences or remedies for this violation, then there is no bargaining process for any union to follow in the future,” Wu said.

A spokesperson for Local 99 criticized the school district’s pursuit of the labor board case.

“This is yet another attempt by LAUSD to silence the voice of workers,” said Blanca Gallegos. “The three-day strike proved that workers will not be stopped in their demands for respect. LAUSD must focus on ending the harassment and intimidation of workers instead of engaging in legal tactics designed to further discredit their voices.

UTLA did not have an immediate response on Friday, but in an online FAQ, the union defended the legality of the walkout.

“An unfair practice strike (UPC) is a strike to protest violations of the law by the employer (LAUSD),” the union explained.

“As such, this type of strike does not require following the mediation and investigation processes that are required in the context of an economic strike.”

The next step in the labor board process would be a trial before an administrative law judge — which could happen within the next month, said J. Felix De La Torre, general counsel for the labor board. In such a proceeding, the school district would present evidence that the strike was illegal. The unions would then present evidence that it was appropriate. The judge would make a decision and, if LA Unified prevailed, impose an appeal.

We do not know what this remedy would be.

The legal basis for the Local 99 strike was to protest alleged unfair practices in the school system. The union accused the district of preventing the union and employees from carrying out union activities protected by law. The district has generally denied wrongdoing, but has yet to respond to each of the more than a dozen cases filed by the union.

The following are examples of alleged wrongdoing by the District:

  • Supervision of union members.
  • Refuse release time to participate in the negotiation.
  • Failure to Provide Trading Information.
  • Retaliation in the form of poor evaluation or reassignment for union-related activities.

The union also accused the district of improperly rescheduling optional extra learning time for students — which affected when union members could choose to work. The schedule change came after the district bowed to pressure from the UTLA.
The district has filed its own complaints against the unions, and this week’s PERB action relates to those filed with the labor board on March 17, a last-ditch effort to avert the strike that began March 21. District officials asked the labor board to issue an immediate injunction to stop the walkout.

The council refused to do so – and it would have been extremely unusual for it to intervene in this way without careful scrutiny of the evidence, legal experts said.

Union leaders said this lack of intervention was a victory – and it was, in that it allowed the strike to go ahead as planned. But the case remained active. The board authorized an “expedited” review, which also did not shorten the strike, but the review took place.

The release of a complaint does not mean that the council has sided with the district and against the unions, said De La Torre, general counsel for the labor council.

“What that means is we’re looking at the facts by the district versus the unions,” De La Torre said. Regulators are asking the question, “If these facts were found to be true in a trial with evidence, with witnesses and documents, would that amount to a violation of state law?” And if the answer is yes, we issue a complaint. So that’s what we’ve done so far.

According to the complaint, the current bargaining round with Local 99 began on February 16, 2022, and in late December the two sides began to “begin to engage in deadlock proceedings,” part of a process required step by step that has not yet been completed.

Organizing a strike under these circumstances is illegal, according to the complaint.

The case, if not settled, will hinge on whether the events leading up to the strike warrant an unfair practice walkout or if the unfair practice charges were just a pretext to call a strike. as leverage.

The lawsuit filed against the teachers’ union describes a similar scenario, although the teachers’ union and the district are not as advanced in negotiations. The complaint states that the UTLA “did not initiate or complete deadlock proceedings” and that it “encouraged members of the bargaining unit to engage in a three-day sympathy strike” while that she “failed and refused to bargain in good faith” in violation of state law.

To avoid a legal challenge on other grounds, both unions formally terminated their expired contracts, which included anti-strike provisions.

The labor board filed its complaint against Local 99 on the first day of the strike and against UTLA on the second day of the strike.

California Daily Newspapers

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