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Editorial: Union strategy tough to endorse

May 29, 2010

The Glendale Teachers Assn., after three days of voting this week, voted to reject a tentative contract that would have saved the school district about $3.8 million each year. The rejection now sends Glendale Unified back into the realm of greater fiscal uncertainty, a place that seems to be becoming more and more like home.

And that home looks more and more like a place that the teachers union has built. In the dragged out back-and-forth with the school district, the union's tactics and direction have emerged as head-scratching and unfocused.

The recent decision to stage a candlelight vigil outside school board President Greg Krikorian's home protesting possible teacher layoffs and increased class sizes is just the latest example of a strategy that raises serious questions about what the end game is for union leaders who have struggled to get through to board members and even some of their own members.


Some teachers rightly criticized the vigil as an ineffective show that could come off as a petty public relations stunt. If that was the intent, mission accomplished.

To be sure, the 15 unpaid work furlough days for each of the three years in the contract, coupled with increased teacher contributions to their health-care benefits, are nothing to scoff at. Those concessions would have real impacts to the incomes of hundreds of teachers who day in and day out work to bring out the best in our future generations.

But so far, it appears as if the strategy of union leaders has languished in the halls of grandiose posturing that works only in the initial stages of bargaining. The stack of the school board is 4 to 1 in favor of the cutbacks, and most of them were elected by a fiscally conservative voting base.

Add to the mix the fact that school districts throughout the region — most recently Burbank Unified — have reached their own agreements with their teachers, and the Glendale union is coming off more and more like an out-of-touch entity operating in a fiscal fantasy land.

The recent agreement approved in Burbank withdrew all 67 pink slips issued to teachers.

No one can truly say with a straight face that state education funding will start to go up next time around, which begs the questions: With the summer deadline for teacher layoffs fast approaching, who's holding the union leadership accountable?

The vote to reject the tentative agreement was 587 to 414, a clear indication, according to union President Tami Carlson, that teachers are unwilling to accept permanent concessions on a temporary crisis.

If more than half of voting teachers believe that California's efforts to bridge tens of billions of dollars in deficits during a protracted recession will really turn around within three years, then perhaps they can clue us all in on the deep secret alluding just about every economist out there.

They might also try explaining that position to 77 of their fellow teachers who are still holding pink slips.

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