LA School Workers Strike
Another major school workers strike has begun in Los Angeles. And it isn’t just a teachers strike.
Classes were canceled for more than 420,000 students on Tuesday as school employees and teachers kicked off a three-day strike in Los Angeles, facing off against administrators in the nation’s second-largest school district.
The work stoppage began before dawn, with bus drivers walking a picket line outside a Los Angeles Unified School District lot where they normally would be starting their routes. Other workers planned to protest outside campuses and district facilities during the school day.
On Monday afternoon, school district leaders had pushed for continued negotiations that could prevent the closure of hundreds of schools as they tried to bargain with the union that represents 30,000 teachers’ assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers. The employees are seeking a 30 percent pay increase, and union leaders say their members are paid not much more than the minimum wage as living costs surge in Southern California.
Alberto M. Carvalho, the district superintendent, had for days publicly lamented the consequences a strike would impose on students and families ensnarled in a dispute that was not theirs. On Monday, he appealed to union members by pointing out the classroom hours lost during the Covid-19 school closures.
But Max Arias, executive director of the union, assailed the superintendent and his salary of $440,000.
Is that all?
The union remains steadfast in its demand for a 30 percent overall raise; an additional $2-an-hour increase for the lowest-paid workers; and other increases in compensation. Local 99 said its workers made an average salary of $25,000 a year. The district has said that the figure includes part-time as well as full-time employees. The union declared an impasse in December.
A counterproposal from the district, announced by Mr. Carvalho at a news conference on Monday, included a 23 percent recurring increase and a 3 percent cash-in-hand bonus.
When the district publicly announced what was supposed to be a confidential mediation on Monday, the union declared it was ready to strike.
The union must first exhaust all of the bargaining steps required before it may legally protest over wages. This strike is technically in protest of unfair negotiating tactics by the school district.
Los Angeles Unified, however, believes the union has put economic issues front and center and unsuccessfully asked the state to block the planned strike.
Teachers are walking out in solidarity:
The teachers’ union, which is also currently negotiating its contract, walked out on Tuesday in solidarity with the support workers. Both unions have fought with the district over acceleration days, which are intended to give students extra support but cut into scheduled school vacations.
In short, the poorest paid people in the schools, who are realllllllly poorly paid, have finally had enough. Good. Put the pressure on LA. Maybe some of that $440,000 salary (plus who knows how much in benefits) can be diverted to the janitors.