The reason? Teachers want to call attention to their "dissatisfaction with the district's continued bad faith bargaining," said Shawn Chen, Mira Costa High School English teacher and Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association president.
"Our action is an attempt to alert the public to the [Manhattan Beach Unified School] district's refusal to meet with us in a timely manner to resolve our contract," wrote Chen in an email to Patch. "Our action accompanies repeated requests for the district to return to the bargaining table. These requests have been rebuffed (in person, via email from several different parties)."
Wrote Mira Costa teacher Adam Geczi in an email to Patch, "The teachers are troubled by the intransigence of the district and they feel that the community needs to know this. Taking their lunch break is a way to call attention to the situation before dissatisfaction grows greater."
The two parties, who have been hammering away at contract negotiations since March of 2012, reaching their first agreement in September 2012, have stepped back to the table as committed to in their 2012 contract.
The ire of the teachers union, however, was raised when an October negotiations meeting, at which they anticipated receiving a full proposal in response to their full proposal, was rescheduled for November on one day's notice, an abrupt move the union contends was done perhaps to keep the labor dispute from influencing school board elections on Nov. 5th.
The theory is that if the district planned to offer "something unacceptable" in the October meeting, that action could "damage campaign results."
Negotiations all along have been contentious.
While the school district posits its rationale for financially protecting the district and its students, the union has repeatedly pointed to an alleged financial shell game, claiming the district moves funds constantly to avoid being pinned down and having the information used to substantiate teachers' claims and rationale for pay increases.While trying to pin down the district's finances for bargaining purposes, the union requested numerous documents in 2012 and claims the district did not meet its requests.
To that end, the union filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board, whose subsequent investigation resulted in a complaint being issued against the school district on Oct. 4 alleging unfair practices.
Chen said teachers view the complaint as a "validation" of their assertion that the district hasn't been forthcoming in negotiations.
Patch has not been able to connect with district officials yet.