United Teachers of Los Angeles Passes Dues Increase
Eighty-two percent of LAUSD’s teachers who voted did so in favor of a dues increase. About half of the District’s 32,000 teachers had voted. This figure also represents a wider number of teachers who cast their ballots than in past elections.
The increase will come to about $1,000 a year or a third increase over the past dues, which is significant. There are some teachers who had voted “no” who may choose to opt out and be fee payers. But, the majority showed they were in favor. An attempt to raise dues had failed in 2008. Teachers were paying about $685 up to recently, when they got a 10% raise and dues were increased slightly to $760.
The stakes were high. Teachers had a union in UTLA which had stated they were “cash strapped” and running in the red. In fact, UTLA had borrowed $400,000 from its strike fund which it is repaying. What was different this time? There was very strong organization on the part of UTLA President Alex Caputo Pearl and the officers who visited the school sites to give rallies and talks on the “Build the Future, Fund the Fight”. This group of officers was united in their efforts and supported President Caputo-Pearl’s vision.
Revenue for UTLA consisted largely of dues and due to the attrition of teachers from about 45,000 in 2008 to about 32,00 in 2016, there was a large decrease in revenue. Revenue went from about $43.7 million in 2010 to about $38.8 million in 2013 according to figures in the L. A. Times from the IRS Tax Filings.
There were and are new battles for UTLA to fight as the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation seeks to increase the number of charter schools which could cause a drop in enrollment in LAUSD schools and that would translate to less teachers as student enrollment drops. Broad is talking about enrolling half of LAUSD students in charter schools within eight years.
There are legal battles to be fought as the recent one in which job protections for teachers have been eliminated. That case (Vergara) is on appeal. Another case that is requiring the Union to spend funds on legal fees is the recent lawsuit in which a teacher (Friedrichs) in California won. Friedrichs seeks to make it harder for unions to collect dues. That case is also being appealed by UTLA. Other issues facing teachers are performance evaluations, reducing the extreme testing of students, and increasing the number of nurses and counselors per student at the school sites.
Thus, with revenue going down and the escalating cost of legal fees to fight the takeover and these legal battles, Caputo-Pearl had strong arguments in favor of the dues increase. Caputo Pearl and UTLA recently secured a 10% increase in salary for teachers, and he wants to reduce class size, reduce testing, win the legal battles and defeat the Broad Foundation’s plan to take over LAUSD schools. The arguments for a dues increase were extremely compelling. It costs money to fight Broad and any takeovers in the works.
LAUSD teachers had not had a dues increase for 45 years and the dues were among the lowest being paid to other teachers Unions.
The deal, however, was a package deal. In addition to the dues increase, there was a proposed merger of the four affiliates: California Teachers Association (CTA), National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and California Federation of Teachers (CFT). The other issue that got voted in was the pass through to teachers when UTLA gets increases from the affiliates.
Union affiliate union organizations had given a grant to UTLA which allowed for UTLA to hire a director, researcher, community outreach specialist and field organizers. The affiliates stand to gain when a merger of the four affiliates takes place and all teachers will be required to be members of four affiliates instead of two. But, there will be strength in numbers with all four hopefully acting in unity.
Thus, the majority of teachers who voted, decided to support and strengthen their Union. The voted for a dues increase and changes so that their union could use that money to fight to maintain LAUSD schools, improve conditions, reduce class size, increase the numbers of counselors to student ratios, bring back nurses and librarians, do away with the constant testing of students, handle performance evaluations and fight the Broad Foundation and Waltons.
The teachers make up the Union and they need a strong union to fight for them. Hopefully the infusion of revenue from the dues increase will bring about the changes the teachers want as teachers stand strong and united to support UTLA.