LAUSD teachers, staff to go on strike Tuesday, March 21
LOS ANGELES - A possible three-day strike that would force the closure of Los Angeles Unified School District schools will begin Tuesday, March 21 the Service Employees International Union Local 99 announced Wednesday evening at a rally in Grand Park.
The union representing roughly 30,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other workers declared an impasse in talks with the district and announced plans earlier this month to cancel its existing contract.
A new round of negotiations to attempt to avert the three-day strike is set to begin Friday with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho saying the district is prepared to improve its offer.
District officials said last week that Carvalho had made the Service Employees International Union Local 99 "one of the strongest offers ever proposed by a Los Angeles Unified superintendent."
United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district's teachers and others, totaling another roughly 30,000 workers, said its members would honor picket lines if SEIU called a strike.
SEIU-represented workers voted in February to authorize the union to call a strike if negotiations failed.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said schools will temporarily close and warned parents to start talking now with their employers and child care providers.
"We would simply have no way of ensuring a safe and secure environment where teaching can take place," Carvalho said. "We will give you as much advance notice as possible, but we encourage you to begin discussions with your employer, child care providers and others now."
On Wednesday, thousands of LAUSD union workers gathered at downtown's Grand Park for a rally, during which the Tuesday strike date was announced.
In the wake of the news announced at Wednesday's rally, Carvalho said in a statement that, "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.
SEIU officials are asking for a 30% wage increase across the board, while UTLA has been pushing for a 20% raise. The unions have pointed to the district's projected $4.9 billion reserve fund for 2022-23, while also citing rising inflation and housing costs.
"Workers are fed-up with living on poverty wages — and having their jobs threatened for demanding equitable pay. Workers are fed-up with the short staffing at LAUSD — and being harassed for speaking up," Max Arais, SEIU Local 99 executive director, said in a statement last week. "We demand that LAUSD stop the unlawful activity, or workers are ready to take stronger action to protest these unfair practices. Canceling our contract is not a decision we make lightly. But it's clear that LAUSD does not respect or value the work of essential workers in our schools."
Union officials have said the affected workers earn an average salary of $25,000 a year and have been working without a contract since June 2020.
The union declared an impasse in negotiations in December, leading to the appointment of a state mediator.
In addition to salary demands, union officials have also alleged staffing shortages caused by an "over-reliance on a low-wage, part-time workforce." The union alleged shortages including:
- Insufficient teacher assistants, special education assistants and other instructional support to address learning loss and achievement gaps,
- Substandard cleaning and disinfecting at school campuses because of a lack of custodial staff,
- Jeopardized campus safety due to campus aides and playground supervisors being overburdened and
- Limited enrichment, after-school and parental engagement programs due to reduced work hours and lack of health care benefits for after-school workers and community representatives.