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Inglewood Teachers File Unfair Labor Complaint

January 15, 2004|Erika Hayasaki | Times Staff Writer

The Inglewood teachers union filed an unfair labor practice charge Wednesday against the school district and held a rally outside the board meeting, claiming teachers have not received the pay raise they are due.

The Inglewood Unified School District's 800 teachers have not received a raise in the last three years. A tentative contract agreement reached in October would have given them a 2.5% raise retroactive to July 1, 2002, and an additional 2.5% raise retroactive to July 1, 2003. But the district, citing financial problems, has since put that agreement on hold.

The labor complaint was filed with the California Public Employee Relations Board.

Later in the day, about 300 parents, students, teachers and residents gathered outside the board meeting holding candles, blowing whistles and chanting: "No raise, no peace." Michael Marks, a representative of the National Education Assn., told the trustees: "The integrity of this school board is in question. How can the Inglewood School District expect to retain quality teachers if it cannot keep its word to them?" About eight teachers then served the board with the unfair labor practice papers.

Board members then went into closed session and would not comment on the matter.

Kathy Stewart, president of the Inglewood Teachers Assn., said the lack of raises "means that we'll possibly lose more of our teachers, who will go to other districts where they will make more money. It also means we cannot trust the word of the board, because we signed a legal document."

Union officials were notified Dec. 16 that the district would not honor the salary portion of the agreement, according to Doug Appel of the California Teachers Assn.

In a statement Wednesday, district officials said they "would like to give a raise to our deserving employees" but could not maintain adequate reserves and balance the budget if they did.

"The teachers' morale is really down," said Kelly McGowens, 37, who has taught in the district for five years. "The teachers are just fed up."

McGowens said she expected to receive her check last month, and planned to put some of the money into savings for her two children and install new carpeting in her home. Others were counting on the extra cash, which would amount to $1,000 to $2,000 annually per teacher, to help pay for Christmas gifts, she said.

"Teachers are leaving," McGowens said. "Teachers are tired of not being treated fairly, and not being put first when it comes to salary. They're getting excellent training at this district, learning how to work with all types of students. They're getting their credentials, and they're leaving."

Outside the meeting, union representative Jeff Good was surrounded by teachers who complained that they were struggling to provide for their families and pay mortgages.

"It's not about us suffering; it's about our kids suffering because so many of us have to leave," Good said. "This is not about greedy teachers. This is about the district not understanding that if they don't invest in us, they are not investing in kids."

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