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Anaheim Union Teachers to Picket Over Contract Deadlock

Times Staff Writer

To protest stalled teacher-contract negotiations, informational pickets are scheduled to march this morning in front of Walker Junior High School in La Palma.

“It will be the first picketing by any of our teachers this year,” said Leonard Lahtinen, president of the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Assn., the union that represents the 900 teachers in the Anaheim Union High School District.

Lahtinen said the picketing today “is to let parents and the community know that we’re the largest school district in Orange County still with an unsettled contract for our teachers this year.”

Lahtinen said the teachers’ old contract expired last summer. Contract negotiations broke off Jan. 23, and a state labor mediator is scheduled to meet with both sides March 31 to try to resolve the impasse.

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Jo Ann Barnett, president of the Anaheim Union High School District board, said Sunday that the board can do nothing until the state mediator meets with both sides.

“I would like to get some movement on this (proposed contract), but we’re waiting for the mediator to come,” said Barnett.

“We thought we had good rapport with the teachers’ association, and then when impasse was declared at the bargaining table, it came (as) a shock to us.”

In labor negotiations, “declaring impasse” is a term that means union and management formally ask the state to send in a mediator to help settle a contract. The mediator tries to find ways for bargaining to resume.

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Lahtinen said the teachers’ union has not asked for a percentage pay raise this year.

“All we are asking for is contingency language,” he said. Lahtinen said the teachers want a contract that would dedicate any state money from Proposition 98 this year “to salaries for all employees--not just teachers.”

Proposition 98, narrowly approved by state voters last November, requires the Legislature to give school districts proportional increases each year. There are conflicting views among state officials and legislators as to whether Proposition 98 requires more money to be allocated to school districts during the current school year.

So far no new money from the proposition has come to any school district.

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Lahtinen said another contingency the union would like to see written into a new contract is “that if there is an ending balance in the school district that is more than is needed for reserve funds, then that money be put into teacher salaries.”

Barnett, in a separate interview, said she doubted the school district will have any surplus funds this year. “This is the worst year we’ve ever come up against,” she said. “We just do not have any money.” Barnett said that the district has had declining enrollment for the past 15 years, and thus it gets proportionately less state money since state funding is based on the number of students.

Anaheim Union High School District has had shrinking enrollment since the 1973-74 school year, when it peaked with 37,500 pupils. Current enrollment in the sprawling district is about 20,000 students. The district provides high schools and junior highs for most of Anaheim and also for La Palma and Cypress.

Van White, an English teacher at Walker Junior High, said Sunday that he expects about 20 of the school’s 30 teachers to be marching in front of the building, beginning at 7:30 this morning.

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He said the teachers would cease picketing before classes start at 8:05 a.m.

“There’s a reluctance by the district to settle, and we’re one of the last two or three districts in Orange County still without contract settlement,” said White.

In rebuttal, school board President Barnett said the district wants to settle a new contract as quickly as possible.

But she said the district cannot move until the state mediator arrives March 31.

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As for possible Proposition 98 funds this year, Barnett said, “We don’t know how much money we’re going to get. You can’t spend a buck until you have it.”


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