Service Employees International Union Local 99
Seiu Local 99 64132c9005854 6419a2d5ada44

Last-minute talks fail, workers begin strike in Los Angeles district

March 21, 2023
30,000 members of the Service Employees International Union are being joined by 35,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles in the three-day job action.

Tens of thousands of workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District have walked off the job over stalled contract talks, and they are being joined in solidarity by teachers in a three-day strike.

The Associated Press reports that demonstrations are expected at schools across the city by members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 teachers’ aides, special education assistants, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff.

Workers joined picket lines in a steady rain before dawn, demanding better wages and increased staffing. 

District superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate and said that he was prepared to meet at any time day or night. He said Monday a “golden opportunity” to make progress was lost.

Local 99 said Monday evening that it was in discussions with state labor regulators over allegations that the district engaged in misconduct that has impeded the rights of workers to engage in legally protected union-related activities.

During the strike, about 150 of the district’s more than 1,000 schools are expected to remain open with adult supervision but no instruction, to give students somewhere to go. Dozens of libraries and parks, plus some “grab and go” spots for students to get lunches also planned to be open to kids to lessen the strain on parents now scrambling to find care.

The union says district support staffers earn, on average, about $25,000 per year and many live in poverty because of low pay or limited work hours while struggling with inflation and the high cost of housing in LA County. The union is asking for a 30% raise. Teachers want a 20% pay hike over two years.

Carvalho said the district has offered a wage increase totaling more than 20% over a multiyear period, along with a 3% bonus. In addition, the deal would include a “massive expansion of healthcare benefits,” the superintendent told Fox 11 on Monday.

SEIU members have been working without a contract since June 2020, while the contract for teachers expired in June 2022. The unions decided last week to stop accepting extensions to their contracts.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 35,000 educators, counselors, nurses and other staff, expressed solidarity with their striking co-workers.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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