All Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) schools closed March 21 as the district’s two unions kicked off a three-day strike demanding more pay and benefits.
Members of SEIU Local 99, the union representing the district’s 30,000 non-teaching staff—including cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and special education assistants—said in a March 21 press conference that members were striking to bargain for better wages and increased staffing in schools.
“We are on strike to protest the disrespect against workers who are speaking out for more staffing for student services,” said SEIU Local 99 president Conrado Guerrero at the press conference. “We are on strike to protest the threats against workers who have spoken out for better livelihoods. We are on strike because we have had enough.”
United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing 35,000 LAUSD teachers, also joined the strike.
The strike has disrupted schedules for the district’s 420,000 students.
Erica Quezada, a parent of three children in the district, told the Epoch Times that her three-year-old was unable to get the speech therapy he takes through LAUSD on Tuesday, and her five-year-old’s virtual classes were also shut down due to the strike.
Quezada said she was concerned the shutdowns would exacerbate learning loss for the district’s students – many of whom are still struggling to recover from pandemic-induced learning loss.
“[The unions are] holding our kids like pawns,” Quezada said. “And the kids are the ones suffering the consequences. They’re already behind because of all the school closures, masks, regular [COVID-19 tests] …add up all that and it’s learning loss.”
District officials—who repeatedly attempted to avoid a strike by bargaining with the union—are making efforts to minimize the impact of the strike on families.
LAUSD is offering student supervision all three days from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at several campuses throughout the district. It also partnered with the city of Los Angeles to distribute meals—up to six meals per student—on March 21 from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.
District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho continued to urge the union to return to negotiations in a March 21 statement.
“We remain ready to return to negotiations with SEIU Local 99 so we can provide an equitable contract to our hardworking employees and get our students back into classrooms,” he said.
The union, which has been negotiating a new contract for its members with the district since April 2022, said the strike was necessary because LAUSD’s offers were unsatisfactory.
The union’s proposal requests “good wage increases”—though it does not specify amounts—with increases at the 10th year and includes a so-called “Me Too” clause—meaning if any other LAUSD bargaining unit receives a wage increase, the union would receive one as well.
Other benefits the union is seeking are full-time hours, pay for mandatory training and certifications required for work, no split shifts, and substitute relief for absent coworkers.
It also requests the district notify and bargain with the union before changing schedules and hours.
On March 18, LAUSD offered union members a five percent wage increase for 2022–23; a six percent wage increase for the following year; and a five percent wage increase for 2024–25.
From The Epoch Times