After a massive protest at Los Angeles City Hall Wednesday, the union representing nearly 30,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees announced a three-day strike, from March 23 to 25.
Service Employees International United, Local 99 (SEIU-99), who represents custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and paraprofessionals working in the school district, have asked for higher wages, deeper staffing and greater equity in its new working contract.
“As LAUSD parents and workers, SEIU Local 99 members know a strike will be a sacrifice but the school district has pushed workers to take this action,” SEIU-99 Executive Director Max Arias said in a statement Wednesday. “Families have been sacrificing for far too long on poverty wages. Students have been sacrificing for too long in school environments that are not clean, safe or supportive for all. Too many workers have been subjected to harassment simply for demanding change.”
THIS IS HISTORIC. A SEA OF PURPLE AND RED. All united to demand fair contracts and fully funded public schools at LAUSD. Our power and solidarity will change LA💜❤️ #99Strong #ReadyToStrike #CleanSafeSupportiveSchools #UnionsForAll pic.twitter.com/ntDn4bhyZC
— SEIU Local 99 (@SEIULocal99) March 15, 2023
Holding signs that read, “Respect us! Pay us! and several that were critical of LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, thousands of protesters gathered at Grand Park Wednesday, with support from the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), who represent LAUSD teachers.
UTLA has met with LAUSD in search of a new teacher contract, making similar requests to the employees in terms of wages and staffing.
It is not clear if teachers will join the strike, but the district said it is preparing for all possibilities.
“The union representing our teachers and other instructional and mental health staff… advised its members to support their SEIU colleagues, which means teachers may also not be available to provide classroom instruction,” Superintendent Carvalho said Wednesday. “SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate. With a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU’s demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated, it is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so.”
In the contract offer, the district offered workers a more than 15% ongoing wage increase, 9% retention bonus, equity adjustments for those earning fewer than $30 per hour, health benefits for part-time employees and a $20 minimum wage, which would be higher than both the county and state’s minimum.
SEIU called it a “step forward,” but sought a 30% ongoing wage increase, as well as $2 per hour equity wage increase.
“Workers are fed-up with living on poverty wages and having their jobs threatened for demanding equitable pay,” Arias said on Friday, March 10.
Tens of thousands of people in downtown Los Angeles right now out here in solidarity with @UTLAnow @ReclaimLASchls @SEIULocal99.
Thousands of LAUSD workers are announcing a 3-day strike, which would likely force the nation’s second-largest school system to shut down. pic.twitter.com/OOYP6mCiXf
— People’s City Council (@PplsCityCouncil) March 15, 2023
Despite the strike date being set, Carvalho said the district wants to continue its contract negotiations with both SEIU-99 and UTLA, often accusing them of refusing to meet.
“To the union leadership — SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias and UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz — we are waiting for you,” Carvalho said Wednesday. “Our offer to continue to negotiate is still on the table until a resolution is reached. Let’s work together to avoid a strike and keep our students in schools.”
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