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Why the historic joint strike by LAUSD workers has been ‘decades in the making’

Good morning and welcome to Essential California Newsletter. Is Wednesday March 22.

Workers who feed, transport, teach, heal and clean after Los Angeles students launched a historic three-day walkout Tuesday, shutting down the largest school system in the state while demonstrating for higher wages and better working conditions.

The work stoppage was called by Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents some 30,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and others. Approximately 35,000 United Teachers Los Angeles members joined their fellow district workers in an act of solidarity.

“Historically, strikes are relatively rare at LA Unified and this one would be especially unusual given the coordination between the two unions,” my colleagues Howard Blume and Andrew J. Campa noted in their pre-strike report.

As the rain fell Tuesday, thousands of workers picketed city campuses and then rallied for a massive rally downtown in front of LAUSD headquarters.

Non-teaching workers earn an average salary of $25,000, Local 99 CEO Max Arias told The Times last week, and the union is seeking to increase that to $36,000.

“I love my job and the students,” Alejandra Sánchez, a special education assistant, told The Times from a picket line Tuesday. “And it’s sad that I have to get up today in the rain to fight for respect because the district doesn’t understand what I and so many others are doing.”

While union leaders have been negotiating for nearly a year, this week’s strike was in protest of alleged unfair labor practices at LAUSD. Local 99 accused the district of “impeding the rights of workers to participate in legally protected union-related activities,” Blume reported Monday. LAUSD has denied any wrongdoing, though Superintendent. Alberto Carvalho promised to investigate the union’s complaint.

It may only be planned for three days, but the strike was “decades in the making,” according to Mindy Chen, director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute and professor of labor studies at Los Angeles Trade-Tech College.

Chen previously worked as an organizer for SEIU and noted the importance of this week’s action, which marks the first time the two unions have joined in a strike, with UTLA willing to “voluntarily withhold pay and work to really stand in solidarity” with non-teaching workers in their schools.

“Unions have not always been good at coordinating actions,” he told me.

It’s especially notable, Chen explained, given Los Angeles’ troubled and violent history of organized labor (in which the LA Times played a major role).

Flashback to the late 19th century: As more workers unionized across the country, Los Angeles remained a “horrible, anti-union city for a long time,” Chen said.

But over the next century, as unions across the Rust Belt saw waning influence, Los Angeles union members “really figured out how to organize immigrant workers (and) organize home communities,” he explained.

He traced that shift to the late 1980s and early 1990s. Back then, LA was viewed as “a low-wage workplace” by unions who didn’t believe organized labor could grow, Chen explained, especially given the large numbers of low-wage immigrant workers. But then the organizers began to develop a “labor community coalition working model,” which really got going with the 1990 janitors’ strike. Chen explained the strategy:

“The way we can unionize (is) to think about raising the bar… not just talk about union work itself, but really talk about a combination of social justice, economic justice and really look at labor organizing as one to be able to regional economy”.

That focus on building community paved the way for action this week, Chen said, as many LAUSD families whose lives are affected by the strike stand in solidarity with the striking school workers.

“My read is that UTLA has pretty good outreach with parents,” he said. “There is a lot of understanding and sympathy from the community that they have to do what they have to do.”

In torrential rain, LAUSD workers demonstrate on Day 1 of a three-day walkout outside the Robert F. Kennedy Community School on Tuesday.

(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

For Chen, the LAUSD strike also comes at an opportune time, as the national “reckoning” over the dignity of work continues to escalate.

That’s “elevating the conversation beyond pay,” he said, and pushing people to think about “living wage jobs and better jobs (so) people who teach in a district can actually afford to live in that district.”

“There is much greater labor consciousness throughout the region,” he said, noting the recent strike by workers at the University of California. “(It is) a good time to make solidarity more flexible and flex leverage a lot.”

Here’s our newsroom’s full coverage of the strike and its impacts on LAUSD.

And now, This is what is happening in California:

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Downtown Los Angeles’ Grand Park will be renamed in honor of Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina. County leaders approved the dedication a week after Molina, 74, announced she had terminal cancer. Los Angeles Times

long Beach Prisk Native Garden It’s not a secret garden, but it’s usually only open to students and teachers at the school where it grows up. But this spring, the doors will open to the public with a couple of free tours. Los Angeles Times

Check out “The Times” podcast for essential news and more

These days, waking up to current events can be, well, daunting. If you’re looking for a more balanced news diet, “The Times” podcast is for you. Gustavo Arellano, along with a diverse group of reporters from the award-winning LA Times newsroom, delivers the hottest stories from the Los Angeles Times every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


A federal database lists 539 levee systems in the 11 Greater Bay Area counties. But less than 10% of those levees have received a federal flood risk rating. Many are on private land and are not subject to the same inspection and maintenance standards as the state and federal systems. KQED

Mobile home parks have become a haven for Californians coping with the housing crisis. But the lack of regular inspections has left many parks destitute and in disrepair. That created a catch-22 as state housing officials weigh closing them down, displacing residents to the brink of homelessness, or ignoring the housing’s dangerous conditions. CalMatters

California is expected to receive “waivers” from President Biden’s EPA to enforce new state rules diesel truck regulation — which are more stringent than current federal standards. That’s according to three sources who spoke to the Washington Post. The Golden State aims to curb tailpipe pollution from highly polluting vehicles, ultimately phasing out sales in a transition to electric trucks. the washington post

UC San Diego has the green light to move forward on a 2,400-bed housing complex for a student center as part of an effort to address the current student housing crisis. Construction on the $1.1 billion project is expected to begin this summer. The San Diego Union-Tribune


Parts of a California law regulating new firearms were blocked by a federal judge this week, who ruled that they violate the Second Amendment. The revocation doesn’t take effect for another two weeks, giving the state Justice Department time to appeal the ruling. Associated Press


Communities in Northern and Central California were hit by a “bomb cyclone” that felled trees and knocked out power to tens of thousands. The storm caused at least one death when a tree reportedly fell on a vehicle in Portola Valley. Los Angeles Times

After a difficult start at the beginning of this stormy winter, Ballona Creek Trash Interceptor 007 is operating on schedule, preventing thousands of pounds of trash from spilling into the Pacific. The solar-powered system, the first of its kind in the US, has trapped 35,000 pounds of trash since the atmospheric river parade began in January. Los Angeles Times

A ship in an ocean water channel with a line of buoys stretched out across the water.

The Ballona Creek 007 Trash Interceptor, shown in January, serves as the last line of defense against trash that would otherwise be washed into the Pacific Ocean.

(Casa Cristina/Los Angeles Times)

The CDC is warning of a potentially deadly fungus that authorities say is spreading rapidly across California. About 360 clinical cases of candida auris either C. auris have been seen in California over the past 12 months, the second-highest number of cases in the nation. The fungus is spread primarily within healthcare settings with lax infection control. Los Angeles Times

Communities in the San Joaquin Valley have been dealing with flooding for months as a dozen storm systems drenched the region. But there is a long-term challenge that officials hope to face “through June”: Record snowpack in the Sierras will melt and swell the San Joaquin and Kings riversprobably emphasizing the storage capacity of the dams. The Ash Bee

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from today california landmark comes from Shankar Murali Menon, sharing from India: Point Vicente Lighthouse.

A lighthouse is seen on a jagged cliff at the edge of the ocean.

Point Vicente Lighthouse, photographed by Shankar Murali Menon while on vacation in 2018.

(Courtesy Shankar Murali Menon)

Shankar Murali writes:

The lighthouse is one of the jewels of the Palos Verdes peninsula, located at its southwestern tip near the intersection of Palos Verdes Drive and Hawthorne Boulevard. (Se) arose as a result of a petition from sailors and navigators who navigated these dangerous waters in the early 20th century. (Completed) in 1926, it was one of the brightest landmarks on this coast at the time.

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special place in California — natural or man-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Be sure to only include photos taken directly by you. Your presentation may appear in a future issue of the newsletter.

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