Tens of thousands of union workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District plan to go on strike for three days next week over stalled contract talks, forcing the temporary closure of schools, union leaders announced Wednesday.
The strike was set to begin Tuesday. It was announced at a rally by the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 teachers’ aides, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff.
“We come together to demand living wages and respect for workers who support student learning,” SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said in a statement. “We know the decision to strike will be a sacrifice, but it is an action LAUSD has forced us to take to ensure that they value our contributions to student learning and respect essential workers in our schools.”
The SEIU 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 L.A. County. The union is asking for a 30% raise. Teachers want a 20% pay hike over two years.
The district has made what it called an historic offer to the SEIU of a 15% wage increase, some of it retroactive, and 9% in retention bonuses.
United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union representing 34,000 educators in the district, plan to honor the picket lines.
“We continue to be underpaid compared to districts in our area,” Mallorie Evans with UTLA said. “Everything is increasing in this city, and we as educators can’t afford to live in the city in which we work, and that produces more of a hardship.”
The unions also accuse the district of engaging in intimidating tactics that include threats, interrogation, and surveillance of members who participated in last month’s strike vote.
The strike would mean a walkout of as many as 65,000 workers and force the shutdown of Los Angeles public schools.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho expressed disappointment with the impasse.
“SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate,” Carvalho said. “With a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU’s demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated, it is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so.”
Teachers waged a six-day strike in 2019 over pay and contract issues but schools remained open.
This time, schools would likely close and there wouldn’t be any access to virtual learning, Carvalho said in an email to parents on Monday.
“We would simply have no way of ensuring a safe and secure environment where teaching can take place,” Carvalho said.
Parents Supporting Teachers, the largest advocacy group supporting LAUSD teachers and families, on Wednesday said they stand with the unions’ efforts.
“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 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article misstated the amount of LAUSD’s offer to SEIU. The post has been updated.