A three-day walkout that would shut down Los Angeles public schools is scheduled to begin Tuesday, union leaders announced Wednesday during a mass rally downtown by the district’s two largest employee groups.
LA Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho on Wednesday urged union leaders to bargain “24 hours a day” to avoid the strike, which he said would further harm more than 420,000 students trying to recover academically and emotionally from the COVID pandemic. -19, which forced them to learn at a distance for more than a year.
Union leaders responded that they seek the long-term interest of students and workers through their demands for higher wages and better working and learning conditions.
The early strike of as many as 65,000 workers would represent the largest and longest total disruption to education in the nation’s second-largest school system since the 2019 six-day teachers’ strike. Not even the pandemic campus closures, which lasted more than a year in Los Angeles, resulted in a complete disruption of academic instruction.
The Grand Park rally drew thousands of participants, packing the park so full that mass loudspeakers could not even reach participants more than a block away, with members of Service Employees International Union Local 99 dressed in purple and members of United Teachers Los Angeles dressed in red. .
“We have to be ready to stand our ground,” Local 99 executive director Max Arias told The Times. “I want to show the city of Los Angeles that if we have to go on strike, it’s really to improve schools, even if students are absent for a few days. At the end of the day, we need to have clean, safe schools for everyone.”
It said the contract demands in total would increase the average salary of its members from $25,000 to $36,000.
“We’ve been at the table for 26 sessions,” said teachers union president Cecily Myart-Cruz. “And we’ve been there since May. And there has been very little movement. There have been a couple of things that we have agreed on. But we want to talk about all our ‘Beyond Recovery’ contract proposals, because we know that our working conditions are the learning conditions of our students”.
UTLA’s proposals call for sustained funding for special programs to help black students, smaller class sizes and efforts to develop affordable housing for low-income families.
The looming walkout would be spearheaded by Local 99, which represents some 30,000 workers, including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria and other food service workers, campus security aides, teaching assistants and helpers for students with disabilities. disabilities.
Local 99 would join a solidarity walkout from UTLA, which represents 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians.
The rally followed a morning press conference by Carvalho, in which he said that he and district negotiators are willing to meet to avoid a strike.
“I have 2, 3, 4 chairs around the table,” Carvalho said. “And I commit myself 24/7, day and night… to find a solution that will prevent, prevent, a strike that will prevent kids from staying home, will prevent kids from going through hunger in our community without access to the food they need. get into school.
Fifth grade teacher Marisol Cabrera arrived at Grand Park dressed in red with her colleagues from South Gate’s Montara Avenue Elementary School. She was holding a Carvalho clipping in one hand and an iPad in the other.
The 27-year-old veteran approached a mandatory school meeting with her handheld device while marching with a 3-foot-long sign across her chest that read: “Carvalho doesn’t care about our children!”
“We are here in solidarity with our friends at Local 99 to say that we want to be in class, we want to teach and we don’t accept the narrative that we are closing schools,” said Cabrera, 50.
Also at the rally was special education assistant Amy Rendon, a 32-year-old mother of a toddler who works with children at Evergreen Elementary School in Boyle Heights, changing diapers, hand-feeding, whatever it takes. She earns $20 per hour for a six hour shift per day in a position that starts at $19 per hour. Her caseload is too large, she said, and students receive too little attention and consistency because of the turnover.
School board president Jackie Goldberg, who earlier expressed optimism that there would be no strike, seemed Wednesday less safe.
“It’s the first time since I’ve been doing this that there hasn’t been back and forth,” Goldberg said. “There was a statement of: ‘This is it. And that is.’ That’s not negotiations. I am very disappointed.”
Carvalho said Local 99 has not responded to the district’s two most recent offers.
A Local 99 spokesman said the blame for the stalled talks lies with the district.
“LAUSD had two months to negotiate with the members of SEIU Local 99,” said Blanca Gallegos. “They never approached us. During the mediation process, they did not make any significant moves. SEIU Local 99 has not walked away from the negotiating table. We are currently at a dead end and following the legal process for negotiations.”
Leaders of both unions have accused district leaders of bargaining in bad faith over their wide range of proposals and of failing to commit enough district reserves for contract offers.
In his remarks, Carvalho took aim at the union’s focus on the school system’s anticipated $4.9 billion ending balance for the current school year. He said union leaders are giving their members “false hope” because most of that funding is already committed for future expenses, is restricted for special purposes, or is one-time funding that should not be applied to ongoing wage increases.
He added that the district, however, is prepared to improve on its current offer when union leaders return to the table.
Carvalho said the district is in discussions with community groups about how they can help distribute food on school days and help with childcare for families. The district is also preparing academic materials for students to take home, she said.
Beyond the bargaining table, both the school district and the union compete for public opinion.
The teachers union enjoyed broad public support for its 2019 strike. Months later, however, local voters rejected a union- and district-backed tax increase for schools.
There is strong potential support for teachers should negotiations fail, according to a new poll from Loyola Marymount University.
Pollsters Asked: LAUSD teachers asked for a pay raise. If labor negotiations cannot reach an agreement, would you support or oppose LAUSD teachers going on strike to meet your demands?
Among LA residents, a strike was strongly supported by 39% and somewhat supported by 37%. Only 10% were strongly opposed to the strike and 14% were somewhat opposed to the strike.
Support for a strike was also relatively strong among parents, with 79% of Los Angeles County residents with a child at home saying they supported it.
Meanwhile, Carvalho had average to positive ratings. Among school district residents: 16% gave it an A letter grade; 29% a B, 36% a C; 13% a D and 9% an F. Carvalho became superintendent 13 months ago after a long tenure at the helm of Miami schools.
The survey, conducted from January 4 to February 5, included telephone sessions, online surveys and in-person surveys with 2,008 adults living in Los Angeles County. The survey was conducted in English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean. The question regarding the qualification of the LAUSD superintendent was only asked of respondents from the City of Los Angeles. The question about support for the strike was asked throughout the county.
Historically, strikes are relatively rare at LA Unified and this one would be especially unusual due to the coordination between the two unions. In addition, the strike is not due to stalled negotiations but to allegations by Local 99 that the school district has illegally interfered with the union-related activities of its members. Neither union has exhausted the typical bargaining process, which includes time set aside for mediation and investigation.
Carvalho said he authorized his legal team to seek measures that would delay or prevent the strike, but did not elaborate on what they would be.
Goldberg said he believes a deal remains within reach.
“We have the resources to make this the best offer in the country in both SEIU and UTLA, the best offer in the entire nation, continuing, not unique, continuing because we value our employees,” he said.
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 district is offering a rolling 5% salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2021, an additional continuous 5% salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2022, and a 5% salary increase effective July 1, 2023 In addition, employees would receive a one-time 4% “retention bonus” for the current school year and a one-time 5% bonus the following year.
The teachers union is seeking a 20% raise over two years, starting with 10% for the current school year.
The district’s offer is a rolling 5% raise plus a one-time 4% bonus for the current year and an additional rolling 5% salary raise plus a 5% bonus for the coming year.
A bargaining session with the teachers union is scheduled for Friday. Local 99 has not agreed on a date for the next session, Carvalho said. Local 99 said it continues to do business responsibly.
“We are currently waiting for the state Public Employment Relations Board to set up a panel so that we can begin the investigative process, which is part of the impasse procedure,” Gallegos said.