With about 24,000 students due to show up Monday for their first day of school in the Orange Unified School District, teachers from all 37 schools voted Wednesday night to strike unless a settlement is reached with the district before Monday morning.
Although both sides said Thursday that they hope to avert a strike, William Bianchi of the California Teachers Assn. said the mechanism is in place for a walkout by the union's 1,100 teachers in the district. For example, strike signs have been prepared.
Asked if he was optimistic about the negotiations, Bianchi quipped, "We're optimistic enough to get me to work full time as strike coordinator."
If the teachers strike, the district will staff the schools with certified teaching substitutes, district spokeswoman Jacque Wilson said. "Schools will be open as normal Monday--no matter what," Wilson said Thursday.
"Everybody is at the table, and we are negotiating," Wilson said. "We have every hope this will be negotiated."
The majority of Orange Unified's 1,200 teachers are members of the Orange Unified Educators Assn., a branch of the California Teachers Assn. Of the 700 who voted Wednesday night, about 95% voted for the strike, Bianchi said.
A teachers' strike in Orange Unified would affect students in Orange and Villa Park and some parts of Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Anaheim Hills.
The union is asking for a 10% pay raise--5% less than its original request, Bianchi said. The district is offering 9%, Wilson said.
Salaries for Orange teachers range from $19,713 to $36,870. The district offer would increase the range to $21,488 and $40,071, Wilson said.
The two sides reached an impasse in June, Bianchi said. The teachers' three-year contract ended June 19, the last day of school. A state mediator is working with negotiating teams from both sides.
Teachers did informational picketing throughout the spring, Bianchi said, but the "next time we do it, it's not for informational purposes, it's for real."
The two sides also are split on other issues, including grievance procedures.
In November, 1984, the district and union reached agreement after eight months of negotiations and a strike threat.