Families are preparing for possible school shut downs as a strike will be held by L.A. Unified School District union workers from March 21 to 23. The union, which includes bus drivers, aides, custodians and cafeteria workers, are in stalled labor discussions and announced their plan to strike during a rally this Wednesday afternoon.
Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 are asking the district to use $4.9 billion in reserves to invest in the schools and to pay for a 30% raise. Individuals in the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents the teachers, could join them in the strike. The UTLA is also asking the district to pay $2 per hour equity wage increase. Both unions represent approximately 65,000 workers. While both unions are in negotiations, talks have been fruitless thus far and a strike is imminent. In a statement sent to district parents, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said, “If this strike does occur, despite our best efforts to avoid it, due to the anticipated lack of both teachers and school staff, it is likely we would have to close schools – without virtual education – until the strike ends. We would simply have no way of ensuring a safe and secure environment where teaching can take place. 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.”
According to LAUSD, Carvalho has extended an offer that includes a 5% wage increase retroactive to July 2021, another 5% increase retroactive to July 2022 and another 5% increase effective July 2023, along with a 4% bonus in 2022-23 and a 5% bonus in 2023-24. SEIU officials are asking for a 30% wage increase across the board, while UTLA has been pushing for a 20% raise. Union officials have also stressed the problem of staffing shortages due to an “over-reliance on a low-wage, part-time workforce.’’
While a six-day strike occurred in 2019 due to failed negotiations, the schools remained open. With a strike occurring in the impending days, the possibility of schools remaining open is slim. “There is not one parent in this school district who wants a strike, not one. And while we aren’t budget specialists, we see a constant rolling out of new programs, new logos, acceleration days and other initiatives that cost huge amounts of money when the true value of our schools are the people inside,” the advocacy group Parents Supporting Teachers said in a statement. “This isn’t 2019, and we are tired and scared, but we know more than ever how valuable the people in our schools are, and we will support them.”