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L.A. teachers union caucus endorses underdog in UTLA election

March 24, 2011 | 10:26 am

A high-profile new caucus within United Teachers Los Angeles, the teachers union for L.A. Unified, has endorsed the underdog in the race to head the influential labor organization, The Times has learned.

The group, NewTLA -- a play on the union's acronym -- has called for its supporters to back Warren Fletcher, who finished second to Julie Washington, a union vice president, in the first round of balloting.

Washington received 44.8% of the vote while Fletcher, a teacher at the City of Angels alternative school, finished second in a crowded field with 37.3%.

The runoff will include only Washington and Fletcher, with the winner succeeding A.J. Duffy, who is barred by term-limit rules from seeking a third three-year term.

The runoff election is currently underway via mail-in balloting. Results will be tallied March 29.

The NewTLA caucus has been trying to gain influence within the union by winning seats in the union’s House of Representatives.

NewTLA has called for more openness to new ideas and more collaboration with other interest groups.

In a published explanation of its endorsement, NewTLA said it endorsed Fletcher “based on the belief that he would help promote a more respectful, civil environment within UTLA where meaningful reform may be more likely."

A dissenter within the NewTLA caucus said Washington, a kindergarten teacher, was being unfairly saddled with disappointments associated with Duffy’s leadership team, which has subtly supported Washington.

That teacher said she feared that Fletcher, who has talked of restoring the union's focus on traditional teacher concerns, would be more inflexible and less creative in finding solutions.

Third-place finisher Mat Taylor said he expected Fletcher to lead a more combative union, one that might go on strike to reclaim or maintain lost wages and benefits and become more assertive in guiding district school-improvement efforts.

Washington represented the union this week at a local education summit that was sponsored by the United Way.


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-- Howard Blume