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LAUSD strike ends with classes to resume Friday but no settlement for low-wage workers


A three-day general strike that shut down Los Angeles public schools, led by support staff and backed by teachers, ended Thursday, paving the way for students to return to school, but the unresolved labor dispute continues to threaten stability. from the second school in the country. -Larger school district.

local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents 30,000 gardeners, janitors, teacher aides, special education aides, bus drivers, food service workers and others, claimed success in bringing the plight of some of the lowest-paid workers to from the school district to the public’s attention. The walkout shut down campuses, which are set to reopen Friday, and disrupted family schedules as parents scrambled to find childcare and secure meals normally provided at school.

On the muddy grounds of the Los Angeles State Historic Park near downtown, 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.

Local 99 executive director Max Arias did not attend the rally because he and members of the bargaining team “continue to talk with the district,” a union spokesman said.

Mayor Karen Bass stepped in Wednesday to help mediate the talks and was expected to continue those efforts. Bass’ goal has been to help the parties reach an agreement “to reopen schools and ensure fair treatment for all LAUSD workers,” according to a statement on her public agenda.

Neither the Los Angeles Unified School District nor the union have released details of the talks since Bass arrived.

Local 99 expressed hope that the mayor would make a difference. “We are hopeful that under his leadership we can have productive talks,” spokeswoman Blanca Gallegos said.

The union wants a general wage increase of 30% plus an addition of $2 per hour for the lowest paid workers.

The district has offered a 23% pay raise and a 3% bonus than the Los Angeles superintendent of schools. Alberto Carvalho has called it “historic”. Only workers on the job since the 2020-21 school year would receive the full pay increase.

District workers said they were eager to reach an agreement, because giving up pay during the three-day strike worsens already precarious financial situations. And some aren’t sure they can withstand another attack.

Veronica De La Paz, a campus assistant and parent representative at Hobart Elementary School, is already planning leaner meals to prepare for a smaller paycheck in two weeks. Maybe potatoes and pico de gallo, eggs with green sauce; or extend the chicken marinade to two meals, using the enchilada sauce the next day, she said.

Her hourly wage of about $17 and her husband’s minimum wage for packing work in the garment district come to about $4,000 a month. But the couple lives paycheck to paycheck: She had just $60 left in her bank account Wednesday night before her biweekly paycheck arrived on Thursday. After spending money on rent, food, utilities and clothes for her rapidly growing 7-year-old son, she said, there’s no money left for savings, a car, let alone Disneyland, her son’s dream, or spring break trips. .

De La Paz said the strike was worth it to send a message to Carvalho and other district leaders.

“Your employees need better wages and opportunities,” he said. “We are going to fight for our rights. We deserve as human beings to be able to afford housing and food.”

He added, however, that he could not bear another strike in the event of a inability to reach an agreement.

“Honestly, I don’t think I can survive,” he said. “I love where I work, but if we can’t do it, I would have to move on.”

Erika Rioverde, a campus representative for Parmelee Avenue Elementary, also said the strike was worth it, but another strike could force her to look for another job.

With an hourly wage of about $15, more than half of her family’s monthly income goes toward the $1,100 monthly rent. Since she lost her second daycare job, Rioverde said, she can no longer afford foods like ribs.

Some enrichment opportunities for his two sons, ages 7 and 13, are out of the question. A STEM program and visits to the Natural History Museum are out of reach, as is a county football league; she said she can’t afford the fee or purchase of $45 per child. shin guards, cleats and other equipment.

“I hope they settle down,” Rioverde said. “If (Carvalho) really cares, would he dare to close the schools again? People in my position will start looking for other jobs even though I love what I do.”

Silvia Gallegos, a cafeteria worker who joined the demonstration Thursday, said she is barely making ends meet thanks to her second job at Uber Eats. She makes $2,200 a month and pays $1,600 in rent, which would be inaccessible without the help of her son, she said. She is constantly exhausted from her long days and joined the strike “to make a difference”.

Early Thursday, the strikers returned to the picket line when bus drivers normally start their routes, but instead carried signs reading “ON STRIKE” and “Respect us, pay us!” At the BD Bus Yard near the Fashion District, the protesters shouted “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union!” while at other schools in the 700-square-mile school system, picketers they sang, danced and chanted while he demanded better from the district.

Los Angeles Unified school employees and supporters picket outside the district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.

(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

Although the walkout was spearheaded by Local 99, United Teachers Los Angeles urged its members to join the walkout, a solidarity action that led to campus closures.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz fired up the crowd at the park rally Thursday, 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!”

David Smith, an economics professor at the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business, said LA Unified has been in a “precarious bargaining position” because of its $4.9 billion ending balance as inflation and high housing costs hit to the workers.

“Politically, the optics are not good when taxpayers see those kinds of dollars in the bank,” he said. “As Los Angeles residents face higher costs of living and inflation, it becomes hard to sympathize with the school district. Not to mention, schoolteachers and laborers generally receive the lowest wages among professional workers.”

He added that the strike had an impact beyond the workers. The district’s 422,000 students were missing out on learning opportunities in the immediate aftermath of the protracted pandemic. Their parents had to fight for the care of the children. Meals had to be fixed. Businesses that supply schools could be left without payment, she said.

Los Angeles Unified School District officials have acknowledged the size of the final balance, but said most of that money is already committed for future salaries and programs or consists of one-time funds that should not be spent on ongoing salaries. Still, officials said, the district hopes to accept sizeable increases.

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

District officials have denied wrongdoing or are still reviewing more than a dozen complaints filed with state labor regulators.

Times staff writers Grace Toohey and Julia Wick contributed to this report.

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