UTLA gives credibility to LAUSD by making the advocacy process look real when in reality it isn't. When UTLA gets a complaint from a member and files a grievance, they treat it as if they have never had a complaint like this before. When in reality, they might have had or presently have the same kind of complaint against the same principal who is doing the same thing to another teacher - they just will not share that information with you.
In continuing to suffer the harassment and assault coming from LAUSD in the form of endless disciplinary hearings and suspension piled onto suspension with no good faith belief as to their veracity on the part of anybody at LAUSD, I wondered why it was that administrators at LAUSD have absolutely no fear for their clear bad faith and possibly criminal actions to violate the rights of their teacher employees.
In recent posts, we have talked about the immunity LAUSD administration thinks that Government Code section 821.6 bestows upon them- something that I think is probably not true if you ever get into a real legal process. And then of course, there is the deep pockets of LAUSD to hire the biggest and baddest law firms in California in lieu of their own mediocre in house legal staff to assure that anybody with the temerity to go after them for their continuing crimes will be tied up in litigation long after Superintendent Ramon Cortines has moved on to the next reality or at the very least his next urban school district.
The piece of the puzzle that I would like to specifically address today with this post is the role of UTLA plays in strengthening LAUSD administration's hubris vis a vis its teachers and all who pay close to $60 a month for UTLA to supposedly advocate on their behalf. In past posts we have pointed out that like LAUSD leadership, UTLA's is highly compensated officers and staff are never going back into a classroom, which gives them the same liability as LAUSD administrators when negotiating rules, conditions, and compensation that they will never have to live by.
I must confess that it is not easy to understand why teachers just sit by refusing to enter into a fight to fix this broken system where they in fact hold the balance of power. But they are never not under siege long enough to appreciate their objective power. Neither their employer LAUSD nor their union UTLA seem to give a damn about their well being and continue the orchestrated campaigns of terror against teachers to make sure that they will be afraid to finally stand up and express their majority views which should hold sway.
By logical extension, it is not just the teachers that suffer, but the well being of the students which is placed in the charge of teachers who continue to get a clear message from LAUSD and UTLA that as far as a real and accountable public education system in Los Angeles goes, you cannot get there from here. The only thing wrong with all the reforms that monotonously repeat the high-minded language of programs like the 1990s LEARN reform, is that LAUSD and UTLA will support and co-opt the rhetoric, but refuse to spend money to build the independent structure with checks and balances to allow these reforms to be adequately implemented and enforced.
There has never been any independent procedural and financial audit system put in place for LAUSD. In fact, LAUSD and UTLA share the practice of attacking any institution - like truly independent charters - that might succeed with the young people they continue to fail with. Clearly the success of public education in Los Angeles by anybody else is seen as antithetical to the personal interests of LAUSD and UTLA leadership who are doing quite fine, thank you, under the same broken system.
Let's talk about some of the ways UTLA leadership protects their shared interests with LAUSD:
1. If you have the misfortune of coming under assault from your principal or any other LAUSD administrative employee, UTLA will treat your case/complaint in pretty much the same way your principal responds to it as if you are the only person who is having this problem. When I filed a recent grievance that I was being asked to work from 8am to 3pm without a nutrition break, lunch break, or conference period as required by the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, nobody at UTLA let me know that the same principal had done the same thing to another teacher at the same school several months before I filed my complaint. UTLA knows full well that there are many principals that continuously break the Collective Bargaining Agreement by harassing teachers or forcing them to do things that are clearly a violation of the California Education Code, Collective Bargaining, and even LAUSD policy, but UTLA continues to respond to the never ending assault on teachers and the contract as if it had never taken place before. Rather then go into court for mandatory injunctive relief to stop this based on the principles of legal equity that cite a multiplicity of actions, a recurring pattern of violation, and legal or money damages that clear are not adequate and which have not resolved LAUSD modus operandi in the past. LAUSD could not continue to act as it has done without UTLA tacit complicity.
2. Not only does LAUSD's entrenched bureaucracy use its budget that dwarfs that of the City of Los Angeles to protect its own self-interest in lieu of those of the students and teachers, UTLA functions in precisely the same way. I have been told by those on the inside at UTLA that there is greater energy invested in the inner office politics of the union and who will get the large perks for succession based on going with the status quo, then there ever is in advocating on behalf of its teachers who spend close to $60 a month for that "service."
3. Which brings up the next issue: Where does all the money go? If you just do the basic math, based on a low figure of 38,000 dues-paying members, that's $2,280,000 a month and that does not even include the rents from the 10 story Wilshire and Berendo headquarter of UTLA or other assets it has. And yet, the union is always pleading poverty or an unwillingness to seek arbitration or other forms of appropriate litigation because they are so poor and unable to hire anymore people. Nonsense!
4. One of the largest expenditures of money by UTLA goes to the politics involved in assuring that LAUSD Board Members are sympathetic to teachers. While at first blush that seems important, the newly released public education documentary called The Cartel shows how the corruption of the public education process in New Jersey works when those that run it are slave to their entrenched bureaucracies and the patronage of unions that they are supposed to deal with at arm's length. There is a reason that the theory behind any effective and non-corrupt organization is the separation of powers and checks and balances that keep people honest. The incestuous relationship between LAUSD and UTLA is just another factor in why there has been no accountability for either.
5. A bunch of ex-teachers who have escaped from the classroom do not have the skills necessary to run either LAUSD or UTLA except in a grossly negligent manner based on their proud ignorance. Teachers don't support UTLA, because they know it's a fraud just like LAUSD.
6. "Free" legal advise from UTLA Attorney Larry Trygstad and Associates, whose bread and butter client is UTLA, is clearly a conflict of interest against teachers because it subordinates your interests as a teacher to the hand and glove relationship that LAUSD and UTLA have.
7. Grievances that go nowhere that are usually dropped after several years with the lame excuse that, "Both you and the principal have moved on," when they are not only capable of repetition but being repeated again and again as discussed in #1.
8. Arbitration that is not pursued without giving the teacher a reason. Surely all of this accounts for the cynicism of teachers who are not only getting beaten up by their employer LAUSD, but also by UTLA. Isn't paying somebody to beat you up called masochism?