Deal reached after strike which shuttered Los Angeles schools for 3 days
A tentative contract agreement was reached Friday between the Los Angeles Unified School District and its support staff following a massive three-day strike which closed the second-largest school system in the nation.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 --- which represents about 30,000 LAUSD teachers' aides, bus drivers, custodians and other support staff --- announced Friday that the agreement includes a 30% wage increase and a retroactive pay increase of between $4,000 and $8,000.
The increase will raise the average annual salary of its workers from about $25,000 to $33,000, the union said.
LAUSD also confirmed the agreement in a statement, adding that it would bring the school district's minimum wage up to $22.52 per hour.
The three-day strike by LAUSD workers ran from Tuesday to Thursday, with teachers joining the picket lines in solidarity, shutting down instruction for the district's half-million students during the walkout.
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass stepped in as mediator Wednesday after district Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate.
In a statement Friday, Carvalho thanked Bass "for her support and leadership in facilitating negotiations."
Striking staff and teachers had returned to work Friday as schools reopened to students.
The strike put a spotlight on the issue of notoriously underpaid workers who serve as the backbone of schools across the country.
SEIU Local 99 says many of its members live in poverty because of low pay or limited work hours while struggling with inflation and the high cost of housing.
While LAUSD is unique because of its size, the walkout could have lessons for other systems in the state, said Troy Flint, spokesperson for the California School Board Association.
"LAUSD could be the canary in the coal mine when you look at the potential for difficult labor negotiations in school districts across California," he said.
Districts are coping with staff shortages and other challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, while working to address other longstanding issues including student performance that predated the pandemic, according to Flint. In addition, emergency pandemic funding from the state is set to expire next year, which will stretch district finances even thinner after decades of underfunding, he said.
"It's natural that employees want to better compensated for their important work," Flint said. "There is a lot of tension between what districts want to do and what they have the capacity to do."
Leaders of United Teachers of Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 educators, counselors and other staff, pledged solidarity with the strikers.
Experts say it is unusual for different unions in the same school district to band together but the unified labor action in Los Angeles could mark an inflection point.
Luz Varela, a teacher's aide, said workers felt like they had to strike.
"I feel sad that we have to go through this because we're missing our kids, but we're doing this for our kids," she said. "I feel that we deserve a little bit more. It's not all about the money. This is about our future for our kids."
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