An Open Letter to Employees & Labor Partners

January 26, 2015


Dear Employees and Labor Partners:

As Superintendent, I am corresponding with all District employees and our labor partners to share some very important developments and concerns that affect everyone, however, may not be widely known or understood. 

I would like to again acknowledge and express gratitude to all District employees and labor partners for the sacrifices that they voluntarily made during the Recession-caused salary freeze and furlough era when the District’s income was so severely reduced. All employees deferred salary growth and even sacrificed part of their salaries in order to respect and save the jobs of fellow employees and to preserve services to the students and public that we serve. That surely was one of our finest hours in terms of ethical and public-spirited behavior.

Now the State economy is improving and District income is in the process of restoration and growth via Proposition 30 and other State funding improvements. A unanimous Board of Education was pleased to cancel all furlough agreements that were still in place at that time. The District then had the ability to begin the long-deferred recovery of salary advancements and make continued investments in maintaining and reducing class sizes and other services that had been sustained temporarily only by means of the furlough agreements.

With the exception of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), all District bargaining units have completed, or are about to complete, their negotiations with the District on terms that fit within the recovering District budgetary resources – achieving welcome, highly-deserved and reasonable salary adjustments. The Board of Education and I certainly share with UTLA the worthy goals of improving salaries and lowering class sizes over the coming years – but we do so, as we must, within the bounds of budgetary limitations and respect for the interests of the students, other employees, and the community.

It is regrettable that the current UTLA leadership has gone in an entirely different direction. They have re-cast the voluntary teacher support of the freeze-and-furlough measures as matters for resentment and victimhood. As a reminder, all LAUSD employees experienced cuts. Even before salary negotiations began, UTLA publicly launched an organizing drive in the schools for a major strike – to disrupt the education of our students, parents and other employees – in an effort to force higher pay for teachers. They have set aside millions of dollars for strike-related efforts.

UTLA has persisted in making entirely unrealistic demands.  Despite some 16 meetings over the past several months, UTLA’s current demands (measured over the two-year period covering this year and next) are now $833 million above the District’s offer (which itself has been increased significantly based upon the Governor’s recent announced supplemental funding). That difference consists of UTLA’s current demand for an 8.5% salary increase plus additional pay and earnings items totaling another 4.2% in pay costs – plus class size/staffing demands that would add 5,000 UTLA-represented employees at an annual cost of $525 million (itself the cost equivalent of another 21% salary increase). Attached is the current LAUSD salary increase proposal to UTLA.

We must live within our means. There are no dollars in the 2014-2015 budget or layoff options to fund any additional increases. This shifts the focus to the 2015-16 budget processes to fund any retroactive changes to 2014-15 salaries as well as the commitments for 2015-16. We have repeatedly offered to open the District’s financial books, and we have repeatedly requested that UTLA identify viable funding sources for any of its additional demands. Regrettably, UTLA has declined to do either, despite our repeatedly explaining that without other funding sources, any significant additional increases could only be carried out by laying off thousands of District employees – layoffs that would directly reduce critically-needed services to students and the community, and injure District employees. 

We must therefore conclude that the sole funding source for UTLA’s persistent demands would be employee layoffs – in catastrophic numbers that would dwarf the impacts of the recent Recession. As a practical matter, any major layoffs would have to include many UTLA-represented employees. However, UTLA has attempted even to avoid that shared responsibility by also demanding (via its class size/staffing proposal) that the District retain and even fund a 5,000 increase in the number of UTLA-represented employees – thus attempting to shift the burden of layoffs entirely upon the other bargaining units and employees (and their critical services to the schools and community) while capturing for UTLA-represented employees a greatly-increased share of the District budget. 

UTLA leadership’s persistent demands, coupled with its strike plans, therefore raise serious ethical and equity issues that must immediately be considered and addressed by all concerned parties, which is why I am writing to you at this time. I have been hoping that UTLA’s demands were simply reflective of future aspirations, or of their ongoing feud with the former Superintendent, so that as time passes they would be tempered by consideration of the reality of the District’s limited resources, and by consideration for the rights and interests of others, including other employees of the District, the students and the students’ families. But I am troubled by seeing no indications of that as the critical 2015-16 budget determinations are now upon us.

We are therefore requesting UTLA’s leadership to re-examine and reconsider their present demands and their single-minded pursuit and organization of a disruptive strike against our students and the community to achieve those demands. There are such high stakes in terms of our collective responsibility to each other and to our students, parents and community. I also urge careful attention and active participation by all of our labor partners and employees in the upcoming 2015-16 budget development process. 

Thank you for your patience and attention to this message, and for all of the wonderful and important work that you all do.


Ramon C. Cortines
Superintendent of Schools  

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Attached Files