Thousands of city workers in Los Angeles took part in a one-day strike Tuesday to bring attention to what they describe as unfair labor practices and the city’s failure to bargain in good faith.
More than 11,000 city workers for SEIU Local 721, including sanitation workers, heavy-duty mechanics, engineers, gardeners, custodians, lifeguards and many others, started walking the picket lines early Tuesday morning.
The union says the city has failed to address the crisis of recruitment and retention of city workers and claimed vacancy rates in some departments are as high as 40 percent.
Workers say they are tired of vacant positions requiring workers to take on large amounts of overtime and they are ready to send a message about what they describe as unfair labor practices.
“We’re being very overworked, we’re understaffed, the city has disrespected us and we’re tired of it. If they continue to disrespect us we’re gonna shut it down,” said Dion Cornelious, a bus operator and executive board member for SEIU Local 721.
Services impacted by the one-day strike included trash pickup (delayed one day), public swimming pools (closed), animal shelters (closed), traffic services such as parking enforcement and large event services. The 311 call center remained open but call times were expected to be longer than average.
Police, fire and paramedics were not be affected by the strike. Summer camps and daycare centers remained open along with libraries and homeless operations.
Protests were taking place at locations across the city, including the Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport.
Workers there grabbed signs and began picketing around 3:30 a.m.
Flights were not impacted but travelers were urged to arrive even earlier than normal.
Striking workers left the airport and joined in a larger rally at Los Angeles City Hall.
The Port of Los Angeles was impacted by the strike as well, with at least four ships that were scheduled to arrive Tuesday ending up delayed.
“Cargo vessels scheduled for entry or departure on Tuesday are being delayed one day due to the job action. The Port looks forward to the return of a full work force on Wednesday,” a port official said in a statement.
The SEIU workers’ contract has yet to expire, but the one-day strike was approved to show the city what could happen if an agreement is not reached.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement about the ongoing negotiations that reads:
“My office is implementing a plan ensuring no public safety or housing and homelessness emergency operations are impacted by this action. Like I said over the weekend, the city will always be available to make progress with SEIU 721 and we will continue bargaining in good faith,” Bass’ statement read.
The striking workers have received support from other unions embroiled in their own tense negotiations.
The city and the union are expected to go back to the bargaining table on Monday.