Classes resume for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District students on Friday after a planned three-day strike by union employees ended with no new agreement.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is actively involved in the negotiations between the district and the Service Employees International Union, Local 99, which represents around 30,000 teachers’ aides, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff.
John Lewis, who serves on the SEIU Local 99 executive board, said discussions will resume Friday morning.
With no new deal in place yet, rallies were held across Los Angeles on Thursday, including a large gathering at the L.A. Historic State Park.
SEIU Local 99 is asking for a 30% wage increase and better working conditions. SEIU said its workers on average earn around $25,000 a year. LAUSD has offered a 23% wage increase over the next five years.
“Our workers at school, often they’re making less than kids in high school working at fast food jobs,” said Chris Acosta, an LAUSD teacher.
“I’m married with a spouse who helps, but we go check by check,” said Erica Cabrera, a special education assistant.
While the walkout is led by SEIU, United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union representing 34,000 LAUSD educators, also walked off the job in solidarity.
As the second-largest school district in the nation, around 400,000 LAUSD students had no classes over the past three days.
“We have a lot of our coworkers who have two to three jobs, so when they come to school, we want them to be fresh, we want them to be filled with energy,” said Mirna Hernandez, a special education assistant and union member. “When they have slept enough hours to come and serve our students, that’s what we need. Two to three jobs is just too much.”
Although district employees are set to return to work on Friday, ralliers say the possibility of another strike is not off the table.
“We’ll be back with our students,” said Hernandez. “We miss them so much, but at the same time, we’re ready and our students should know … I told them, ‘I’ll be back and if I don’t get what you deserve and what you need, then we’re going to return back [to striking.]’”
District officials released a statement on Thursday saying in part, “We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the District and brings students back to the classroom. We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution.”
“This strike is a huge step forward for every school worker in LAUSD, for our students, our parents and our community,” said Thresa Thomas, a food service worker. “Tomorrow we will be back at work in cafeterias and classrooms knowing we are not only in a stronger position to bargain for wages and staffing, we now have a stronger voice to fight for our students.”