Leaders of a union representing financially struggling low-wage workers will announce Wednesday the timing of a three-day strike that would involve teachers and force the closure of Los Angeles public schools, dealing another blow to education. of more than 420,000 students.
The output of as many as 65,000 workers, expected to occur in the next two weeks, would represent the largest and longest total disruption to education in the nation’s second-largest school system since the six-day 2019 teachers’ strike. Not even the shutdowns COVID Campus Pandemic The September 19 pandemic, which lasted for more than a year in Los Angeles, resulted in a complete disruption of academic instruction.
The job action comes as district officials are discussing plans to offer two optional school days over spring break, April 3 and 4, a project that has so far attracted a small fraction of students, about 6,000. . Officials said they would be delighted to get to 340,000 or more, but are determined to go ahead with whoever signs up before the March 24 deadline.
This extra learning time, called ramp-up days, has become embroiled in the labor dispute, with teachers union leaders and their supporters calling these optional days an expensive and poor use of resources.
The coming strike would be led by Service Employees International Union Local 99. Local 99 represents about 30,000 workers, including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria and other food service workers, campus security assistants, teaching assistants, and assistants for students with disabilities.
Local 99 would join a solidarity strike by United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians.
LA Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho announced Monday night that campuses would close because he could not ensure student safety without teachers and support staff.
To families, he said, “We encourage you to start conversations with your employer, child care providers and others now.”
To employees, he said: “We are doing everything we can to provide students with resources for learning, social-emotional well-being, and food in the event of a strike.”
For many union members, the strike represents a painful but necessary step in reaching a contract agreement to improve the lives of employees, while helping to recruit and retain high-quality workers who serve students.
“Hopefully there won’t be a three-day strike, but obviously this is something we might have to do to get people to make a decision to raise our wages,” said Karimu McNeal, who works as a parent. and community representative for 20 hours a week at Dorsey High in South Los Angeles.
McNeal said he planned to attend a rally Wednesday afternoon in downtown Grand Park organized by Local 99 and UTLA.
For many parents, a strike would cause unnecessary harm to students and their families.
“SEIU is one of the unions that stands up for the lowest-paid workers,” said Diana Guillén, chair of the district’s parent advisory committee for English learners. “These workers are part of our community. We agree that they should get a raise. But I don’t agree with a strike. Academically, this won’t help at all.”
The teachers’ union had significant support from parents during its 2019 strike; there is no reliable indicator of where the majority of parents are at this time.
Moderators of the large Parents Supporting Teachers Facebook group said the blame should lie with school district officials if campuses close.
“There is not a single parent in this school district who wants a strike, not one,” co-founders Nicolle Fefferman and Jenna Schwartz said in a statement. “And while we’re not budget specialists, we see a constant rollout of new programs, new logos, speed-up days and other initiatives that cost enormous amounts of money when the true value of our schools is the people inside.
“You know what’s cheaper and less cumbersome than outsourcing tutoring? Smaller classes. Just as our children don’t do well in school without food, neither will our staff,” the group leaders said. “We don’t want acceleration days; we want cafeteria workers to be paid fairly.”
Another opinion came from Lourdes López, who has children in three schools in the district.
“Why are they going on strike when our children need to go to school? I understand that the unions want to make an impact, but they can’t be doing this with the district,” said López, who is a member of the group Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education. “Our children are far behind. … There is a lot of anxiety for our families, especially Latino families like mine. We live in tight quarters and will have our children home during the day without the ability to teach them, the disruption will be huge.”
Local 99 leaders said their walkout would be in protest of LAUSD’s alleged illegal actions during the bargaining process. Such actions, called strike for “unfair labor practices” by the National Labor Relations Boardthey usually have a fixed duration and can be organized without going through the negotiation steps that usually precede an indefinite strike, according to the unions.
LAUSD officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Local 99 leaders recently declared a deadlock in negotiations and are moving through the mediation and fact-finding process. The union, which has yet to resolve wage issues dating from the 2020-21 school year, is seeking a 30% raise for all members, with an additional boost for lower-paid workers.
The teachers union is seeking a 20% raise over two years, starting with 10% for the current school year. The union’s bargaining platform is broad, covering a number of workplace and social justice issues, including committing additional resources for black students and affordable housing for low-income families.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a strike,” said board chair Jackie Goldberg. “They are putting pressure on us. That’s what unions do.”
He noted that another bargaining session will take place on Friday: “I think we have a basis for reaching an agreement with both unions, before a strike is necessary.”
Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said the stakes are high.
“We need more instructional time, not less, and our workers deserve good compensation,” Franklin said. “Many of our SEIU members in particular are parents of our LAUSD students.”