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Lucia Mar Unified Teacher's Association authorizes strike 

The Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association (LMUTA) voted on March 26 to authorize a strike in the midst of deadlocked salary negotiations with the district. The vote enables the union’s executive board to call a strike if a settlement with the school district isn’t reached during the next mediation session and the district opts to impose their offer.

LMUTA rejected the district’s latest offer: a 6 percent raise given over three years, which was pitched at a mediation session on March 25. Teachers have been asking for a 10 percent raise. For much of the mediation, the district has remained firm with a 2 percent raise.

Union representative Donna Kandel said that a 6 percent wage hike over three years is not a better deal for teachers.

“That’s the same offer,” she said. “All that they’ve done is expand that same bad offer for two additional years.”

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Chuck Florentino, as reported by The Tribune, said the district is preparing for the strike as they would for a “bomb threat, a flood, or an earthquake.”

On March 25, Lucia Mar’s school board passed a resolution vesting emergency powers in Superintendent Jim Hogenboom to close schools, modify class schedules and extracurricular activities, and hire substitutes or support staff.

“A strike is considered an emergency situation, and because of that the district needs to be prepared,” said Lucia Mar Marketing and Communications Coordinator Amy Jacobs. “Part of that preparation involves an emergency resolution, which empowers the superintendent to take appropriate timely and emergency actions to prepare for and react to a strike if necessary.”

The union alleges that the district also leaked confidential information to the public from the March 25 mediation session. Kandel said these tactics were meant to rattle teachers in advance of the strike authorization vote on March 26.

“It was an effort to try and keep people from passing the strike authorization, and it failed,” she said. “I think our teachers saw right through that bullying behavior, and our attorney is filing a complaint.”

In the complaint filed with the Public Employee Relations Board on March 26, the union accuses the district of “violating mediation confidentiality by publicly disclosing proposals discussed during mediation.” That refers to the district’s 6 percent offer, which it made public via press release on March 25.

“We submitted two formal proposals in writing and did not receive a formal response,” Jacobs said of the allegation. “If those proposals are submitted in writing, they can be discussed publicly.”

A final fact-finding report had not been released as of press time.

Kandel said the teachers union has bargained in good faith but didn’t submit a formal offer because they’re in mediation, not negotiation, with the district.

“They would be correct if we were not in mediation,” Kandel said. “Mediation is different than formal negotiation where you submit proposals back in forth. There was no indication from the district that we were moving from mediation back into negotiation.”

In the event of a strike, substitute teachers will be paid $300 a day. That figure would more than triple the district’s usual rate of pay for substitutes, which is $95 a day. Jacobs said that the district is preparing to hire “as many qualified substitutes as we can.” She did not provide a figure as to how many substitutes the district might need.

Asked for a figure for the overall price tag of negotiations, including outside counsel, filing fees, and pay for substitute teachers, Jacobs told New Times that they “do not know the cost at this time.”

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