Los Angeles schools close as support staff, teachers begin 3-day strike
Tens of thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District employees went on strike early Tuesday morning after attempts to make a deal between the district and the union for school support staff failed.
The district employees — including teacher's aides, special education assistants, bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers — stood together at a protest Tuesday morning. The Associated Press reported that workers joined picket lines before dawn, demanding better wages and increased staffing.
The strike is expected to last through Thursday. The Los Angeles Unified School District serves over 500,000 students from Los Angeles and all or part of 25 other cities and unincorporated county areas. In addition to the 30,000 support staff members, the local teachers' union, United Teachers Los Angeles, said it will honor the strike as well, meaning its members will also walk out.
Negotiations between LAUSD, the largest school district in the country, and Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents LAUSD support staff like custodians, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, broke down last week. The union on Monday then accused the district of leaking a confidential mediation meeting that was scheduled for Monday to the press.
"We do not believe at this point that tomorrow's event is avoidable," Carvalho said at a press conference Monday evening. "With that said, I will be here for however long it takes waiting on a call from a willing partner to have a meaningful conversation."
"This afternoon, SEIU Local 99 had agreed to enter a confidential mediation process with LAUSD to try and address our differences," the union said Monday in a statement. "Unfortunately, LAUSD broke that confidentiality by sharing it with the media before our bargaining team, which makes all decisions, had a chance to discuss how to proceed. This is yet another example of the school district's continued disrespect of school workers. We are ready to strike."
"We want to be clear that we are not in negotiations with LAUSD," SEIU Local 99 added. "We continue to be engaged in the impasse process with the state."
Carvalho said he would remain available for negotiations throughout the rest of the night and Tuesday.
Two dozen grab-and-go food sites will be open and several Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation sites and Los Angeles public libraries will be open to provide supervision for students, Carvalho said. The Associated Press also reported that about 150 of the district's more than 1,000 schools plan to remain open with adult supervision but no instruction to give students somewhere to go during the day.
"Schools are so much more than centers of education — they are a safety net for hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles families," Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Monday. "We will make sure to do all we can to provide resources needed by the families of our city."
Carvalho said Monday that the strike was not called "on the basis of economic conditions or compensation demands," but said it was instead called because of "allegations of unfair treatment." However, workers who spoke with CBS Los Angeles mentioned a living wage as a major demand, with one saying the demands include a 30% pay increase along with increased staffing and more hours for part-time workers.
"It is not a question of being greedy," LAUSD employee Adrian Alverez told CBS Los Angeles. "We need to make a living wage."
"We live in this weird paradox as workers that help feed children and yet we struggle to feed our own children," Alverez added. "It's a paradox. We help students go to college, yet we don't have enough money to send our kids to college."
Carvalho said Monday that the district has offered a 23% pay increase along with a 3% "cash in hand bonus."
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