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Tustin Teachers Reject New Pact : Union President Blames Lack of Cost-of-Living Increase

June 11, 1985|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Teachers in the Tustin Unified School District on Monday rejected, 170 to 45, a tentative new contract giving them retroactive raises averaging 3.85% for having worked longer hours this school year.

"The teachers just had no incentive to vote for this," said Sandy Banis, president of the teachers' union, the Tustin Educators Assn. "This offer had no COLA (cost of living allowance), and we'd be the only school district in Orange County not getting a COLA this year. The teachers gave us a mandate to go back to the table and get something better."

Voting was held Monday afternoon at Foothill High School, and results were announced shortly afterward. The vote, taken just three days before school lets out, makes it all but certain that the teachers will have worked a full school year without a contract.

The longer hours and longer school year worked by the teachers were mandated by 1983 state legislation. Extra state money was provided by the state to pay for those hours, and district officials said that was the only money the school system had to offer the teachers this year. The teachers' union, however, charged that the district could have found the money "if it got its priorities in order."

In an often bitter school year, teachers in Tustin Unified threatened to strike several times. Picketing and demonstrations were frequent.

Too Late for Strike

Banis said in an interview Monday night that "it's too late this year" for a strike, but she said "teachers are saying they don't want to come back next fall with this kind of a situation." She said there is the possibility that the 424 teachers in the district might boycott the school opening in September unless a favorable contract, retroactive to the past year, is presented between now and September.

Maurice Ross, superintendent of Tustin schools, said Monday night that he was disappointed by the vote. "The district just doesn't have money for a cost-of-living pay adjustment," he said.

Ross said he is not sure when negotiations would resume. "I suppose we are back in mediation again, but I see no urgency now because it's too late now to get the (longer day, longer year) money to the teachers before the end of the year."

Ross said that had the contract been ratified by the teachers Monday, they would have received, in a lump sum, retroactive pay in their paycheck next month. The amount varied but the average lump sum payment would have been $1,153, Ross said.

Banis said teachers were not swayed by the offer. She said that they wanted, in addition to a cost-of-living settlement, agreement on how the state compensation for the longer days and longer year would be allocated in the next two years. "This contract was for one year only," she noted.

The contract rejected on Monday was for the school year that concludes June 30; it would have been retroactive to July 1, 1984.

The proposed contract had been agreed to by a negotiating team from the Tustin Educators Assn. and school district representatives. Ross said Monday night that he couldn't understand how the teachers would reject a contract approved by their own negotiators.

"Their (the teachers') negotiators unanimously approved it, but then the association's executive board recommended against it," said Ross. "Before we go back into negotiation, I want to know who speaks for the teachers."

9% Hike Was Sought

The teachers had originally asked for a cost-of-living raise of about 9%, coupled with a 4% increase for the longer day and longer year.

The new contract also did not include a mandatory union fee, or "agency shop," provision that the teachers' union had sought. The teachers also sought a provision for submitting all union-administration grievances to binding arbitration. Banis has vowed to seek those provisions in the next contract.

District officials have said the pay of the 424 teachers in the district ranges from $32,448 for a teacher with a master's degree and 16 years' experience to $16,344 for a relatively new teacher with a bachelor's degree. The average salary in the district, according to the superintendent's office, is $21,500.

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