While many districts in California have worked with teachers unions to plan for teaching kids at home, the Yuba City Teachers Association says its district is breaking the law. The Yuba City Unified School District says it has the right to respond to stay-at-home orders related to the coronavirus without union say-so.
The district told students to stay home on March 18. Since then, it says it consulted with 80 teachers to develop online lesson plans for students to begin after Easter. But it did so without the union’s support.
Dina Luetgens is president of the Yuba City Teachers Association. She says coronavirus or not, the district can’t change teachers’ job descriptions without union participation.
“It’s a whole new world for all of us and negotiations allow us to engage in a conversation with the district to establish the details of distance learning,” Luetgens said. “We are fully in support of distance learning as we have no other choice.”
The union has sent the district a cease-and-desist letter. Luetgens says the 80 teachers are part of an illegal sidebar to what should have been union negotiations.
Doreen Osumi is the superintendent. When asked if the district had broken the law, she replied “Absolutely not.”
“We have certain rights as a district in an emergency situation," Osumi said. "We were seeking input. so I think there is a difference of opinion regarding that aspect. But I do not believe that we violated any labor laws.”
Robert Hawley is a professor of labor relations at McGeorge School of Law and says it’s true the district can respond to emergencies and does not need union approval. But if it spoke only with the 80 teachers and not to the union, then it broke the law.
“They can make decisions … and respond to emergencies," he said. "ven though it’s mid-term of an [memorandum of understanding] or collective bargaining agreement, they have to meet and confer with the union and negotiate or talk to the union about the effects at least on the employees.”
The district hopes to have teachers instructing online sometime after April 12. Some have already been doing so.
The union says teachers who have continued instruction since March 17 have not required union approval or negotiations to do so.
On April 13 Chromebook laptops will be available to students. Teachers will be in contact with students on April 16.
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