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Mini-Tutorial: Collective Bargaining

The process by which school districts and labor unions agree on employment contracts is called “collective bargaining.” It's a very organized, methodical process defined by a state law that Governor Jerry Brown signed into effect in 1975. (Fun fact: the author of the bill, Senator Al Rodda, was the former president of his local teachers union.)

Which unions represent employees in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District?

  1. The Las Lomitas Education Association (LLEA) represents “certificated” staff: employees whose jobs require a certificate or credential, including teachers, counselors and speech therapists. The LLEA is a chapter of the California Teachers Association (CTA).

  2. The California School Employees Association (CSEA) represents “classified” staff: employees in jobs that do not require a certificate or credential, including paraeducators, office staff, custodians, and folks who serve on yard duty.

These unions do not represent staff in management positions such as principals, assistant principals, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, or executive assistant to the superintendent.

Teachers Unions are Not Universal: Teachers who work in Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and South Carolina are prohibited from unionizing. While the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) has guaranteed the rights of employees in the private sector to organize since 1935, this law does not apply to public employees like school staff.

What does a contract include?

School labor contracts range from one to three years and typically cover:

  • Compensation, including salary schedules, compensation for additional education attained (such as a Master's degree or National Board Certification), and pay for specific duties (like attending Outdoor Ed).

  • Working conditions (e.g. length of the work day and school year, prep periods, lunch breaks, class sizes).

  • Benefits such as health and retirement plans.

  • Leaves (e.g. sick leave, pregnancy, illness, sabbatical, jury duty).

  • The evaluation process (a.k.a. "performance reviews").

LLESD's Sick Leave Bank: The LLEA and CSEA contracts allow staff to donate and utilize sick leave days through a community "catastrophic leave bank." Members may withdraw from this bank if they are incapacitated by illness or injury and have exhausted all accrued sick leave and any other paid time. Staff who have previously donated sick days to the bank can petition the committee, an elected group of staff, for catastrophic leave days.This a great example of the community-mindedness and compassion of our educators and staff at Las Lomitas.

Who participates in negotiations?

Two teams come to the table:

  1. The district, or “management” team is represented by a school board member, the superintendent, assistant superintendent, both principals, the chief business officer, and the human resources specialist.

  2. The union, or “labor” team is represented by union members (our teachers and staff) elected by the association membership.

Each party may also include an outside professional negotiator such as a consultant from the state-level union.

What is the bargaining process?

The process begins with each party sharing at a school board meeting an initial “sunshine” proposal (which "shines light" on the negotiations for the public). Over the next several months, the teams meet privately amongst themselves and with their counterparts until they reach an agreement. Our district uses interest-based bargaining: a “win-win” approach during which the parties work collaboratively to align interests. As the process draws to a close (once the union members vote to ratify the contract) the teams again "apply sunshine" to the tentative agreement by presenting the contract at another public school board meeting. At that time, the board of trustees votes to ratify the agreement. This entire process is long and intense, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the board and staff members who invest the time to make it a success.


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