Mayor Tom Bradley has offered to serve as a mediator in the contract dispute between the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers-Los Angeles.
In a letter mailed Thursday to Los Angeles school board President Roberta Weintraub, Bradley expressed concern about the impasse in negotiations, mostly over pay, and the district’s decision to penalize teachers who participate in certain job actions.
“Given the abiding interest we share in the education of our children, if in any way I can be of service mutually agreed to by the parties, including mediation, please feel free to call on me,” he wrote.
Union President Wayne Johnson said Thursday he was “delighted” by the mayor’s offer.
“We’d take him up on it. I know he is a good man, and I’m absolutely certain he has the confidence of both sides to be fair and work for an equitable solution” to the conflict, Johnson said.
Weintraub said she was “grateful for his offer of help.” But she said that in light of a mutual decision by the union and the school board to request a state labor mediator, she was not certain what role the mayor could play in resolving the disagreement.
“I think his heart is in the right place. It’s obvious that the superintendent and I and top members of the staff need to sit down with the mayor and tell him about all the variety of things that are occurring in the schools and get him totally updated on what is happening,” Weintraub said.
Board members Julie Korenstein and Warren Furutani, who called a press conference this week to criticize the “negative tactics” they said are being used by both sides at the bargaining table, said they would welcome Bradley’s help.
“This is wonderful,” Korenstein said. “I certainly hope we are able to work hand-in-hand and that this will be the start of a new path and new direction for all of us.”
The contract dispute centers on pay, with the district offering a 17% raise by 1991 and the union asking for 12% this year.
Also at issue are proposals, by both sides, for broadening teachers’ authority and, by the union, for eliminating certain non-teaching duties, such as yard supervision.
To protest the district’s offer, teachers are boycotting a number of traditional duties, including recess supervision and turning in attendance records and mid-term report cards. The district began retaliating Thursday by docking the pay of teachers who failed to perform those tasks.