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LAUSD and union workers who led massive strike reach tentative settlement

A tentative deal has been reached to end the long-running contract dispute that shut down Los Angeles public schools for three days, with the lowest-paid workers winning a 30% or more raise, officials announced Friday afternoon.

The tentative agreement, reached after mediation with Mayor Karen Bass, could, if approved by union members, prevent campuses from closing again to 420,000 students and prevent low-wage workers from taking job actions that would have been difficult. to bear

local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents some 30,000 workers and includes bus drivers, teacher aides, special education aides, custodians and food service workers, led the strike that began Tuesday and ended Thursday.

Also striking in solidarity were members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents some 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians.

But the end of the strike – which had a fixed duration – was not the end of the contract dispute, and the possibility of future labor action hung over the negotiations.

Even before the settlement, Local 99 had claimed success in bringing the plight of some of the school district’s lowest-paid workers to the public’s attention locally and nationally.

The walkout not only closed campuses, which reopened Friday, but disrupted family schedules as parents scrambled to find childcare and secure meals normally provided at school. Throughout the school system, parents expressed strong support for the efforts of low-wage workers to improve their lives, but some criticized the labor action that closed schools for causing unnecessary harm to children already struggling to recover from School closures due to the pandemic.

On Thursday, on the muddy grounds of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a sea of ​​red-and-purple-clad union members celebrated the end of their strike while banging drums and buckets and banging noisemakers amid loud music.

“When we fight, we win!” they chanted, along with teachers and family members who joined them in support.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz started the rally, telling them they had “put LAUSD on notice” that all workers deserve dignity and a living wage.

“You faced the hail and the hellish rains and we took the fight to every corner of this Los Angeles,” he yelled. “Our unit has changed the power dynamic in LAUSD. We’ve changed the narrative and now everyone knows who runs LA!”

Throughout the rally, participants criticized district leaders, especially the Superintendent. Alberto Carvalho, but a deal was already closing in, so close that Local 99 CEO Max Arias skipped the penultimate meeting, where he would have been a featured speaker.

One major breakthrough was the intervention of Bass, who stepped in Wednesday to mediate, an intense effort that began Wednesday.

Early news of Bass’s involvement came Wednesday, posted on social media, by Los Angeles school officials. This announcement and subsequent comments from both sides were intentionally skimpy on detail.

However, it seemed unlikely that anything had prevented the three-day strike from going ahead as planned, starting Tuesday.

The day before the strike, union negotiators and district negotiators were never in the same building, let alone in the same room, Carvalho said Monday.

Protesters picket outside LAUSD headquarters in Los Angeles Tuesday during the first day of a three-day walkout, calling for better pay and working conditions for some of the lowest-paid employees in Los Angeles public schools: bus drivers, bus, custodians, special education assistants and others.

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

The justification for the strike

The union had defined the strike as a three-day protest of unfair labor practices, which typically involve allegations that an employer has interfered in legally protected union-related activities.

Blanca Gallegos, the union spokeswoman, said the violations included illegal messages from district officials, such as alleged threats of dismissal or retaliation against workers for voting to support or participating in a strike. The union also alleged that the district changed job classifications “for no reason” and gave bargaining team members “poor job performance” because they were bargaining.

A crowd of protesters, many dressed in red and purple.  A picket sign reads "On strike for our students."

LAUSD employees and supporters picket outside LAUSD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon.

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

District officials denied any wrongdoing. An approved agreement is likely to put an end to most of these cases, although additional review may be needed when employees allege harm to their employment situation.

LA Unified is also likely to file a claim that the two unions organized an illegal strike.