The nation’s second-largest school district, based in Los Angeles, shut its doors to 422,000 students Tuesday in support of workers with the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) that launched a three-day strike over pay. More than 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District employees – including school staff and teachers – made good on their promise to strike in response to a breakdown in contract negotiations. Negotiations have dragged on for about a year with more than 95% of union members voting to authorize a strike last month if talks didn’t progress.
The SEIU, which represents some 30,000 support workers including teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, said many of its members live in poverty because of pay of about $25,000 per year in Los Angeles. Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said: “This is what solidarity looks like right here.” Arias said LAUSD failed to bargain in good faith, instead subjecting workers to stress and harassment: “If LAUSD truly values us and he [School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho] is serious about reaching an agreement, they must show workers the respect they deserve. We have had enough of empty promises.”
The union is asking for a 30% raise, and the Los Angeles Unified School District responded by offering what it called a “historic” 23% recurring raise and a 3% cash bonus. The local teacher’s union is also seeking a 20% raise over two years, and its teachers are striking in solidarity with the support workers, essentially forcing schools in the district to close.
Los Angeles Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said at a press conference that his team is available for negotiations: “I made myself available alongside my team for hours [Monday], hoping that we would, in fact, be able to have a conversation for a whole host of reasons, some of which I do not understand. We were never in the same room, or even in the same building.”
Editorial credit: Walter Cicchetti / Shutterstock.com