Classrooms in Los Angeles were empty again Wednesday morning as tens of thousands of teachers and employees in the nation’s second-largest school district continued a three-day walkout that has left some families shocked and fighting for care. of the kids.
Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents 30,000 teacher assistants, bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers, is seeking a 30 percent pay increase. Union leaders say their members are not paid much more than the minimum wage, as the costs of living have risen in Southern California. The Los Angeles teachers union, which is also currently negotiating its contract, called on its 35,000 members to join in solidarity.
The strike, called by the union specifically to protest what it called unfair bargaining tactics by the Los Angeles Unified School District, comes with protections for leaving workers, the union said, but must have a set time limit. . Classes are scheduled to resume Friday for the district’s more than 420,000 students.
With negotiations stalled, the district set up supervision sites where students could be dropped off for the day, as well as places where families could pick up three days’ worth of breakfasts and lunches.
Bartui Merchain left her 14-year-old son at home, but her workplace east of downtown Los Angeles suddenly became a makeshift child supervision site for her two youngest children.
“This really took us by surprise,” he said Tuesday. “Definitely. It’s not something they prepared us for, like, for two weeks. They just dropped it like a bomb.”
At a time when support for organized labor is high, strikes by teachers and education workers have become increasingly common. Add to that the high rates of inflation and competitive wages in the private sector, and public employees have felt the need for drastic change.
Across Los Angeles on Tuesday, bus drivers picketed and other workers protested outside campuses and district facilities, holding up signs of outrage and chanting for better wages and working conditions.
Jovita Padilla, 40, a bus driver, said she had asked for the day off months earlier to celebrate her 15-year-old son’s birthday. But years without a raise forced her to show up for the strike at 4 am Tuesday at a bus park in Van Nuys, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. In an industry that tends to praise teachers, she said, she felt invisible.
“Everyone else gets raises. What about us?” she said.
Max Arias, executive director of the union, pointed out that the last contract expired in 2020, during the first days of the pandemic. Contract negotiations between Local 99 and the Los Angeles Unified School District began in April 2022, with Local 99 declaring talks deadlocked in December, the union said. Its members voted overwhelmingly in February to authorize a strike.
Alberto M. Carvalho, the district superintendent, had publicly lamented for days the consequences that a work stoppage would have on students and families embroiled in a dispute that was not theirs. He appealed to union members, pointing to school hours lost during the Covid-19 school closures, saying students “cannot afford to be out of school”.