Los Angeles school workers to stage three-day strike
(Reuters) – Ten of thousands of unionized workers in Los Angeles public schools are planning to strike next week after contract negotiations reached an impasse, a move that would likely shut down the second-largest district in the U.S.
The union representing the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 30,000 custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and special education teachers said on Wednesday it would go on strike from Tuesday through Thursday next week. Membership last month authorized the work stoppage after months of unfruitful negotiations with the district.
The union representing the system’s 35,000 teachers said on Wednesday it would join the striking workers on the picket line, a move that will likely force the district to close its more than 1,000 schools in Los Angeles and surrounding communities for three days.
The striking workers, members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, have sought wage increases, more full-time work, better treatment and increased staffing levels since last April.
“Members know a strike will be a sacrifice but the school district has pushed workers to take this action,” Max Arias, SEIU Local 99’s Executive Director, said in a statement. “Enough is enough.”
The average salary of school workers in the district is $25,000 a year and most work part-time hours, the union said. It has asked for a 30% wage increase and a $2 an hour wage adjustment for all workers.
During negotiations, the district has offered a 5% ongoing wage increase in each of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years along with a 4% one time bonus this year and 5% bonus next year, according to the district.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho called on the union to come back to the bargaining table to avert a strike that would close schools for more than 600,000 students.
The union “is simply refusing to negotiate,” he said. “It is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so.”
A strike next week would be the third time in a little more than four years that school in Los Angeles has been disrupted. In January 2019, teachers staged a one-week strike over higher pay, smaller classes and more support staff. A year later, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the district to close buildings and move to online learning for much of the 2020-21 academic year.