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Local 1000 SEIU Sign. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

LA City School Workers Begin Three-Day Strike

Heavy rains disrupt strikes across LA, bring less media attention than expected

By Evan Symon, March 21, 2023 1:49 pm

The Service Employees International Union went on strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday, kicking off the first day of a planned three day strike

The strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the nation with around 565,000 Kindergarten through 12th grade students, comes after nearly a year of continued negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). New contracts with most non-teacher employees within the LAUSD, such as cafeteria workers, special education assistants, janitors, and bus drivers, have not been found despite the district continuing to sweeten the deal each time.

While there have been many issues surrounding the strike, staff shortages and a low income in face of inflation have been the two major sticking points. The SEIU has demanded at least a 30% increase in wages, as well as a $2 per hour equity wage, due to workers in the SEIU making an average of $25,000 a year. The union also wants increased hours and health care benefits for part-time workers, better cleanliness in schools, and more hiring to make up for staff shortages.

Earlier this month, the union rejected the LAUSD’s most recent offer of a 5% wage increase retroactive to July 2021, another 5% increase retroactive to  July 2022, and a 5% increase starting this July, as well as more bonuses. With last minute talks going nowhere on Monday, the SEIU decided to officially give a three-day strike on Tuesday.

While rain kept many away from picket lines Tuesday morning, thousands of strikers still showed up at several locations around the city. Members of the LA teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents around 35,000 educators in the LAUSD system, also joined the SEIU in sympathy despite currently being under contract, as well.

Solidarity to SEIU Local 99, education workers at LA Schools who are on the first day of a 3-day strike,” the union tweeted on Tuesday.  “30,000 working people are in the rain to demand a living wage!”

A continuing strike in LA

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho noted on Tuesday that the district couldn’t be forced to go into a financially bad to the demands from the workers, and that the strike is ultimately harming students.

“Under California law, we cannot drive the school system into a bankruptcy position. We cannot drive the school system into a red position. And if we were to acquiesce to all the demands, that is exactly where we would be, that is not legally allowable,” said Carvalho. “We are eagerly awaiting on a counter proposal and we are ready to put another compelling offer on the table to continue the dialogue. We should not be depriving our students of an opportunity to learn.”

While many expected the strike to be extensively covered, heavy rains kept many members of the media away from the strike on Tuesday, frustrating many who had gone out on strike early in the morning.

“Adding media pressure was going to be big for us,” said striking SEIU member “Jose” to the Globe on Tuesday while taking a break. “They said to stay strong for the cameras. And we remember the teachers strike from a few years ago. We remember how many camera crews and reporters were there. Today? It’s not nearly what we expected. And a lot of people haven’t shown up on our end either. It feels good to be out here, but we expected a lot more. And for better weather.”

With schools closed, students will be staying at home for the next three days. However, many parents groups have been organizing study sessions at places such as libraries, with individual parents giving assigned reading that teachers gave out before the strike. Some educational places, such as the La Brea Tar Pits and the LA Zoo, are also offering free admission to affected LA City school students.

“We aren’t just letting them sit around and play video games or watch TV,” stressed Shirelle Barnes, a class room mom leader who organized several Skype-based study sessions, to the Globe on Tuesday. “We’re having them read assigned chapters in books, get up to date on homework, have them finish up projects, and, because enough parents have off, engineer a field trip to the Zoo on Thursday when the weather is better. Just because those school workers failed our kids doesn’t mean we have to. We’re treating this like a long break rather than a strike.”

“We had to do this during COVID too to an extent. If they strike again, we’ll be ready so our kids don’t fall behind. And the thing is, besides a grumble or two, the kids understand they need to do this too. Other moms told me the same thing.”

“Parents respect the union wanting to strike for what they believe in. But, at the same time, they are putting our kids at risk and putting their futures at stake. No strike is worth that.”

The strike is expected to continue until Thursday. As of Tuesday morning, no new deal between the LAUSD and the SEIU has been reached.


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Evan Symon
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3 thoughts on “LA City School Workers Begin Three-Day Strike

  1. How can one be underpaid, and at the same time be overfed?

    Did you see how FAT those people walking the picket lines are? They’re NOT underpaid.

  2. The SEIU and UTLA need to go on a permanent strike. LA schools and students would be better off without union thugs?

  3. The website Transparent California is worth checking out.
    Keep in mind UTLA head Cecily Myart-Cruz ultimately sees this so-called “sympathy strike” with SEIU-represented low-skilled part-time workers as a means to pressure the LAUSD Supt to cave in without question to HER demands for a 20% raise for TEACHERS, who are already making six-figures in total pay and benefits. She doesn’t give a rat’s rear-end about “underpaid” SEIU workers. See for yourself at the Transparent California website. This UTLA hack is really pushing it this time. Seems to me at this point that taxpayers are COMPLETELY DONE with her demands and sob story manipulations. “Do it for the CHILDREN” isn’t working anymore. The children have been harmed ENOUGH by these people, don’t you think?

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