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HomeUSHere's why these teenagers stand behind LAUSD's essential workers

Here’s why these teenagers stand behind LAUSD’s essential workers


Seventeen-year-old Zoe Garner took the microphone and led dozens of students in a chant on the steps in front of the Los Angeles Unified School District offices.

“Hey hey ho ho, Car-val-ho has to go,” he yelled as he moved to the beat, referring to the LAUSD Superintendent. Alberto Carvalho.

While they may not have been in class during the three-day strike by school support staff and teachers, these students received a real-time civics lesson on the state of labor relations and the role of activism in the Second largest school district in the country. And when they return to school on Friday, many will have a new awareness of the financial pressures faced by janitors, food workers, teacher aides and others who serve them every day.

The workers are members of Service Employees International Union Local 99 who rallied for three days this week to protest unfair practices by the school district during labor negotiations. United Teachers Los Angeles also came out in solidarity, forcing the district of 420,000 students to close campuses.

Local 99 is pushing for a 30% pay increase over four years and $2 more per hour for the lowest-paid employees. Workers do on average $25,000 a year, which employees say has become unsustainable as housing and other costs skyrocket.

Students who attended a demonstration on Wednesday said they were not fully aware that many of the workers at their schools face financial precariousness. They said they were moved to picket during the strike.

“They help feed us, but they can barely afford to feed themselves,” Matisse Anderson, 16, said at the rally.

His support for the strike is not surprising: a recent gallup poll found support for unions in the United States has reached its highest level since 1965. A analysis from the Center for American Progress also found that support for organized labor is highest among Generation Z, the generation that includes teens and those in their 20s and 20s.

The analysis found that young workers have spearheaded successful labor campaigns across the country, including at Starbucks outlets and an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island.

Those who attended the L.A. rally belong to Deserve Students, a coalition of students, parents, and teachers who have also campaigned to get the police out of schools and led efforts to improve campus experiences for black students and others from other marginalized communities.

Matisse, a student at Alexander Hamilton High School in Castle Heights, said he inherited his sense of social responsibility from the adults in his life.

“Teachers and parents today are also fighting for human rights.” he said. “We see what is happening. It is all our job to carry out and finish what they started.”

Jailynn Butler-Thomas, a senior at Susan Miller Dorsey Senior High School in Crenshaw, said she sees the union’s fight as tied to the students’ fight for more resources, such as mental health support. and funding for efforts dedicated to address educational inequalities that disproportionately injured black students.

“The only way for us to achieve what we individually fight for is to unite and unite with each other,” he said.

Los Angeles High student Melanie Juan Cruz said the staff workers are the backbone of her school. She is particularly close with a campus assistant who she says motivates students and creates a warm environment. The 11th grade student said she saw the aide on the picket line earlier in the week.

“When I enter my school, I feel a lot of support. And that is not from the administration,” she said.

The student support buoyed Jsané Tyler, director of the Hamilton High Parent and Family Center, which belongs to SEIU Local 99.

“It was powerful to see them defend us,” he said. “We’ve always supported them, and I know how they feel, but to see them come out in the numbers that they did… just melted my heart.”

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