UTLA asking teachers to vote on returning to classrooms

Cecily Myart-Cruz, the President of LAUSD teachers union UTLA went on Facebook Live Friday to say teachers will be voting next week on returning to school in what they consider unsafe conditions. Myart-Cruz said they are making three demands.

She says, "1. LA county is below the purple tier in terms of COVID19 infections. 2. vaccines are made available to educators and, 3, safety protocols are in place" which includes PPEs in the schools, social distancing, ventilation and a cleaning regimen.

That said, the district’s 33,000 teachers are being asked to vote to start Monday on a pair of questions that are raising eyebrows among many.

The ballot obtained by FOX 11 reads like this:

A YES vote means you agree with UTLA’s leadership and will join your union brothers, sisters and siblings in organizing to resist a forced return to school sites until the three conditions for safety mentioned above have been met.

A NO vote means you are willing to physically return to your school or place of work under unsafe conditions even if the infection rates are still in the Purple Tier without vaccinations, and without all of the safety conditions in place such as ppe, physical distancing, ventilation or daily cleaning.

Parent Cynthia Rojas wants her kids back in regular school and says the wording of the measure is strange.

She says, "Who in their right mind would vote NO? It’s just the way it’s worded. When you put it that way, who would ever agree to say ’send me where the conditions are unsafe.’"

Another parent, Amy Vahdat, is worried about her kids and agrees with Rojas about the ballot language.

She says, "I think this vote...the language in this vote.. is being manipulating."

Sources in the district say the union appears to be doing this so they have a vote if it comes to forcing teachers back to work.

Tom Lenz is a labor lawyer and labor law lecturer at USC. To him, legally, the language on the ballot seems heavy-handed.

Says Lenz, "I see that the union is trying to protect the membership and address an issue of safety that will be common to all of the employees."

Lenz goes on to say, "I think it could be intimidating to a teacher because you look at that and however dedicated they could be branded a safety hazard and that could affect them the rest of their career."

Late in the day, UTLA officials returned our calls for an explanation of their ballot, its purpose and intent. An official told us they wanted to clarify what a yes or no mean in the clearest of terms.

They added that a third-party company will count the ballots that will be sent in by teachers anonymously.

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