Workers for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) voted to authorize a strike as it has asked the district for higher wages.
About 96% of workers who are represented by Service Employees International United, Local 99 (SEIU-99), voted in favor of the strike, with the union giving them a two-week voting period between January 23-February 10.
“After nearly a year of bargaining, LAUSD has shown no effort to truly move essential workers out of poverty and address dire staffing shortages in our schools. Furthermore, throughout the bargaining process and the strike vote, workers have been subjected to harassment by the school district for speaking out and exercising their rights,” Max Arias, SEIU Local 99 Executive Director said in a statement. “It’s this blatant disrespect that is driving workers to take strong action to improve their livelihoods and conditions for students in our schools.”
SEIU Local 99 represents roughly 30,000 LAUSD employees, consisting of bus drivers, custodial staff, teacher aides, cafeteria workers and after school workers.
The union representatives have stated that the workers seek not only higher wages across the board, but also increased staffing, factors that they feel are crucial coming out of a pandemic, with children falling behind on curriculum and needing assistance outside of normal school hours.
“There are major issues in LAUSD’s compensation system that are leading to severe staffing shortages for essential student services,” Arias said in a January statement.
United Teachers Los Angeles(UTLA), who represent LAUSD teachers, have shown support for the employee’s union, as they have had their own issues bargaining with the school district this past school year.
Teachers have also sought a pay increase and have scheduled a rally at Grand Park, Feb. 15, as they continue to display their demands from the district.
“Our 85 members on our bargaining team have met for the last nine months… and basically, the district has not listened,” Arlene Inouye, UTLA Bargaining Co-Chair said. “They’ve not listened to parents, community and students, as we’ve presented and shared issues and given proposals to address the critical issues facing our schools.”
While not addressing the bargaining directly, on Feb. 10, in the midst of the SEIU Local 99’s last day to vote on a strike, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho tweeted that there has been “misinformation,” going around about the district.
“If you are a teacher, a leader, a parent, a student, a believer, I say thank you,” Carvalho posted to Twitter. “I find myself reading a great deal of organized misinformation about what we think or do as a school system. Most of it is predictable if one simply looks back and reads past headlines.”
After the strike voting period ended, without specifically calling out the unions, Carvalho tweeted about a “circus,” that is being done for “nothing more than an applause, a coin, and a promise of a next show.”
Despite the lack of a specific target in the tweet, the unions saw it as a shot against them and their bargaining demands.
A date for the workers strike has not yet been set, but an SEIU Local 99 meeting is scheduled for Feb. 15, where they will discuss the next steps in the strike process.
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