With the prospect of mayoral takeover looming over Los Angeles Unified School District, the local UTLA teachers union has opened contract negotiations by demanding a 14 percent raise for its members. Many claim that the union's high salary demand is an attempt to seek political leverage in a heated time for Los Angeles schools. The school district faces much union opposition to Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa's push for school takeover (a move on par with those of Daley in Chicago and Bloomberg in New York).
The state cost-of-living adjustment is nearing 6 percent this year, making the union's demand of an additional 8 percent salary increase all the more striking. The union is calling on surplus state funds to pay for the increase--but board members say that these potentially one-time funds should not be spent on salaries that could overextend the district budget in future years.
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, political analyst and senior scholar at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California, described the situation as "sticky." "If they win, they get an incredible pay increase. If they lose, I presume they still get a nice pay increase."