Service Union or Organizing Union? A False Choice
It is not a question of being a service union or an organizing union because we have to be both. Our members will not have the spirit to organize their communities if they are not protected by their union.
Due Process and Grievance Rights for All Members
Due process is a fundamental right spelled out in the 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S. constitution therefore it should be enforced with all of our members whether they are probationary or permanent. It is not right to subject new teachers to two years of insecurity and harassment. Most professions have a much shorter probationary period around 3-6 months. All teachers deserve the right to respond to allegations against them.
Fight Grievances, Don’t Ignore Them
The first amendment spells out the right to petition for redress of grievances. When our union discourages this practice and also does not follow through on grievances then teachers lose a key weapon in the fight for fairness and dignity on the job.
The grievance procedure is one of the main tools won by union workers over a century or more of struggle to defend our rights and to strengthen our contracts. Without a strong, and seriously enforced grievance procedure, working people are at the mercy of the malfeasance and venality of their administrators or bosses. In a work environment such as LAUSD, where the hostility of administration to members of the UTLA bargaining unit is notorious, absent a strong and vigorously enforced grievance procedure, teachers are reduced to victims, perpetually at the mercy of the whims of site, local district and citywide administration.
Grievances Are Good for Organizing
The grievance procedure is also a perfect tool for site organizing. Before grievances are filed and after they are concluded, the chapter chair is free to talk to members about the issues and what is at stake, even while protecting members’ confidentiality. After a grievance has been successfully concluded, if the faculty is informed about what happened, the members of our bargaining unit feel empowered and protected by the union, are drawn closer to it and understand some of what their dues money is used for.
For reasons never explained to the membership, the UP leadership of UTLA is hostile to the grievance procedure. At the 2014 Leadership Conference, the first organized by the UP team, there was a significant portion of our Core Training devoted to a session called “Get Off the Grievance Treadmill.” In the first contract the UP team negotiated, they elected to substantially weaken our grievance procedure by adding the absurd and time-wasting informal conference step to the process.
Strengthen Our Contract
Instead of making our contract stronger, they consciously made it weaker and significantly lessened our bargaining unit members’ ability to defend ourselves. Since that time, UTLA has virtually abandoned the grievance procedure anyway, allowing our members who have been targeted by administration to dangle while they are abused and their rights under our contract are ignored. Think of the teachers at your site, or of bargaining unit members you know at other sites who have filed grievances to seek redress for abuse over the past six years. Do you know of any who have been approved for arbitration? We don’t.
PERB Violations Thrown in the Trash
In the most recent contract settlement 18 PERB (Public Employee Relations Board) cases against the district were tossed out. This is not justice for these teachers. We will never benefit from the new precedents that could have resulted from each of those decisions. We need to do precisely the opposite of what Union Power leadership has done.
CORE demands we aggressively enforce the contractual rights of educators through a tough, thoughtful and fighting use of the grievance procedure and PERB process.
CORE demands we dedicate more, not less time for union staff to defend members and our contract via the grievance procedure.