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

LA Schools Service Workers Strike Expected To Start Tuesday

‘Fervent union people are not above tearing people down to make sure they stay in line’

By Evan Symon, March 20, 2023 5:34 pm

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) prepared to strike on Monday, threatening to close down all LAUSD schools from Tuesday until Thursday if demands are not met.

While teachers in the LAUSD have gone on strike before, including large strikes in 1989 and 2019, workers themselves within the schools have generally been more quiet. However, when negotiations with the SEIU began last year over new contracts with most non-teacher employees within the LAUSD, such as cafeteria workers, special education assistants, janitors, and bus drivers, things quickly ground to a halt. Rising costs caused by inflation, a decline in the number of teaching assistants, the number of janitors not being able to keep schools clean, safety issues, low wages, a reliance on part-time workers, and not enough hours or benefits for part-time workers have been major issues between the union and the LAUSD.

As negotiations have continued since April 2022, the SEIU has demanded at least a 30% increase in wages, as well as a $2 per hour equity wage, as workers in the SEIU make 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.

So far, the LAUSD, under the leadership of Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, has offered a 5% wage increase retroactive to July 2021, another 5% increase retroactive to  July 2022, and a 5% increase starting this July. Bonuses will also included for those in this school year as well as next school year.

However, the union has rejected the offer, with the school district scrambling to keep kids in school and not let them be hurt by the strike,

“We are doing everything we can and I remain optimistic we can reach an agreement,” said Carvalho. “Families should be prepared in the event of a strike. We do not need to debate or litigate the fact that during the pandemic, kids lost a lot of ground. They cannot afford to be out of school and that is why I am appealing directly to the union leadership to engage and negotiate in good faith and find a solution that addresses the needs of all, including our students.”

SEIU Executive Director Max Arias, meanwhile, has said that they are not in negotiations with the LAUSD as of Monday, and are instead working with the state to end this.

“We want to be clear that we are not in negotiations with LAUSD,” explained Arias. “We continue to be engaged in the impasse process with the state.”

An imminent strike in LA

While last minute negotiations did occur on Monday, the union blasted the LAUSD for making them public, leading to more strife with the union.

“During the strike vote and contract bargaining process, the district subjected workers to surveillance, intimidation and harassment,” said the union. “And it is these issues that justify the three-day job action. Unfortunately, LAUSD broke that confidentiality by sharing it with the media before our bargaining team, which makes all decisions, had a chance to discuss how to proceed. This is yet another example of the school district’s continued disrespect of school workers. We are ready to strike.”

Meanwhile, teachers, some of whom are expected to join in sympathy during the next three days, are mixed on the strike itself.

“The low wages, especially in this economy, are concerning, but due to the union, you just can’t go to your boss and ask for a raise,” explained Michelle, a teacher in Los Angeles who didn’t want her last name used, to the Globe on Monday. “The big thing is that they’re hurting the kids. Yeah, three days off isn’t a big deal. To many in the country, you can just say this can be treated like a snow day. But, following COVID, we really need every day. And a lot of kids are graduating soon or need to prepare for important tests, and this strike is going to make it that much harder.”

An SEIU employee, who wished to remain anonymous, also told the Globe on Monday that “There are a lot of people fervently for the strike, but a lot of us were also just roped into this and voted for the strike because we felt pressured by the union. If I could have stayed and worked I would.

“When you see us striking in the next several days, keep in mind that a lot of us in those matching shirts and waving signs really don’t want to be doing this, and that we were pressured by the SEIU. I mean, if you say no, you are ostracized for the rest of your working life. Same goes if it looks like your heart isn’t in it. There are some fervent union people here, and they are not above tearing people down to make sure they stay in line.”

The SEIU strike is expected to start on Tuesday and end on Thursday.

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2 thoughts on “LA Schools Service Workers Strike Expected To Start Tuesday

  1. Oh, brother! You gotta love that the SEIU “Exec Director” Max Arias is working directly with the STATE! Guess he figures he will find more “friendly” negotiators in that setting. Meanwhile, down in SoCal, that screeching shrew of a banshee, UTLA head Cecily Myart-Cruz, is trotting out and showcasing a $25K salary in order to cry poor and gain leverage (she thinks). But hello, such a salary is not typical and it is for low-skilled part-time work, or it is a family’s adjunct salary, or sometimes it might be (e.g.) a parent who thinks this is good way to keep an eye on the kids. In any case it is my understanding there are still perks galore for these jobs, so…. there’s that.

    It was raining cats and dogs this morning down where the UTLA planned to hold a rally, which apparently put a crimp in their agenda. Teachers and non-teachers are invited by the UTLA banshee to not work on Tues., Wed., and Thurs. and “join the picket line instead.” That picket line exists for one reason and one reason only and that is to bully teachers and staff who would DARE to cross it.

    Nevertheless, any LAUSD teacher (and there are fine ones, I know) or other employee who would like to opt out of UTLA or SEIU unions is now free to do so if they object to any of this manipulative nonsense or are sick of paying costly union dues. But we can understand why they hesitate when their reward for integrity is to be pummeled by the powerful unions. And also there’s the chance of getting more $$$, of course.

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