Los Angeles Teachers Reach Tentative Deal to Boost Pay

LOS ANGELES — After an overnight bargaining session, the teachers’ union representing 35,000 members reached a tentative agreement early on Tuesday with the Los Angeles Unified School District and avoided the threat of a second labor strike this year that could have shut down campuses.

United Teachers Los Angeles, whose members have been without a contract for 10 months, successfully pushed for a raise that would increase pay by more than 21 percent over three years.

The deal comes just one month after Service Employees International Union Local 99 — a separate labor organization representing 30,000 school support staff, including janitors, bus drivers and teacher assistants — reached its own agreement with the district shortly after staging a three-day walkout that canceled classes for more than 420,000 students.

The teachers’ union had joined that strike in solidarity, a move that its leaders said they believe advanced negotiations on their own contract.

“S.E.I.U. said if we went on strike, they are joining us, so you can imagine the power and impact of that on the superintendent and the school board to know that we’re serious,” said Arlene Inouye, the teachers’ union secretary and bargaining co-chair.

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The union, which expanded its bargaining committee last year from 15 people to 85 people, met with district officials on Sunday for a session that lasted until Monday morning, Ms. Inouye said. After a short break, discussions resumed and went through the night until an agreement was reached on Tuesday at 6 a.m.

“It lifts up the education profession and gives our members what they desperately need,” Ms. Inouye said of the agreement, which must still be voted on by union members.

“Our educators have been overworked and underpaid for so long, and our students have been in a crisis,” she added. “It was also really important to put students at the center, with lower class sizes and mental health support.”

The agreement includes a $20,000 increase for nurses as well as pay increases for mental health workers, counselors and special education teachers. It also reduces class sizes by two students — which creates more teaching positions per campus — and provides additional mental health services as well as counselors at schools.

In addition, the agreement provides a 7 percent raise retroactively for the current school year and then additional raises every six months over the next two academic years.

If negotiations had stalled, Ms. Inouye said the union would have made preparations for a strike. The union last went on strike in 2019, when it forced the second-largest school district in the nation to cancel classes for six days.

District leaders characterized the agreement as a way to offer more support to students and address years of pay inequity and inflation.

“The negotiation process is laborious but critical to ensure our contracts address the needs of our employees,” Jackie Goldberg, president of the Los Angeles Unified school board, said in a statement. “I am thankful to everyone who sat at the table and came to this agreement.”

Although celebrated now, the deal underscores the long-term financial risk potentially facing California’s largest school district as the state emerges from the pandemic into a contracting economy.

Public school funding in California is largely based on attendance, which declined sharply at Los Angeles Unified during the pandemic.

The state has so far continued to peg funding to prepandemic student numbers, but the district could receive lower levels of funding in future years while having to pay higher salaries.

“They can afford it right now, but in, say, four years, it’s going to be serious,” said David Tokofsky, a Los Angeles school administrative consultant, teacher and former Los Angeles Unified school board member.

But those whose paychecks will soon increase saw the agreement as a win. Gina Gray, an English teacher at Middle College High School in South Los Angeles, has had to take on extra tutoring assignments and worked as an Instacart shopper to help pay her bills. She said a raise would give her some breathing room.

“It gets me closer to a livable wage,” said Ms. Gray, 49, who was on the bargaining committee for the union. “When I look at overall where 21 percent is going to take me on the scale, I can look at the future and it feels better.”

Shawn Hubler contributed reporting.

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