THE CASE: Sylmar Charter High School displaced UTLA Chapter Chair and 20-year science teacher Arleni Lopez, claiming it could displace Lopez because of a “reduced enrollment forecast.” Yet in the fall semester following her displacement, when enrollment was higher than expected, the school still refused to bring her back. UTLA filed an Unfair Practice Charge with PERB because it appeared that the displacement and the refusal to reinstate were based on Lopez’s activities as UTLA Chapter Chair, such as advocating for her coworkers in meetings with the principal.

THE VERDICT: The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) ordered the district to reinstate Lopez to Sylmar because the law protects educators who band together to advocate for each other and defend their rights at work. The judge also found that the district violated the law when it took one week to provide a master schedule, which was available at the touch of a button, to a UTLA representative because that would show the enrollment was higher than forecasted. UTLA representatives have a right to timely information necessary for representation of members, particularly when that information is readily available to site administrators.

“My return to Sylmar Charter High School is a vindication that union activity is a protected legal right,” Lopez says. “The impetus may have started at Sylmar Charter High, but the outcome will affect every school in LAUSD. A wrong committed to one is a wrong committed to all.”