Union and district leaders in Los Angeles Unified continued to negotiate without reaching an agreement, leaving schools closed Thursday for a third — and what was expected to be the final — day of a service workers strike in the state’s largest school district.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass intervened Wednesday afternoon to jumpstart negotiations, and leaders from both sides said they were hopeful they could reach an agreement soon to end the strike by custodians, bus drivers and other essential workers. Teachers have walked out in support as well.
But without quick success in the talks, schools remained shut Thursday to the district’s 420,000 students.
Union leaders said workers would be back on the job Friday, regardless of the outcome of negotiations, but they did not rule out a second strike in the coming months if an agreement could not be reached. A second strike would be based on contract issues, rather than working conditions, which is the focus of the current strike.
“We are hopeful that with the leadership of Mayor Bass that we will be able to reach an agreement that leads to living wages and respect and increased staffing for our students in LAUSD,” Local 99 spokesperson Blanca Gallegos said Thursday. “(Union members) are going back to work tomorrow with their heads held high. … There is a new recognition from the school district and the entire city of the work they do.”
The district also expressed hope without saying how close a deal might be. “We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district and brings students back to the classroom,” the district tweeted. “We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution.”
The teachers union, which is also in contract negotiations with the district, joined members of Local 99 on the picket lines again Thursday morning for the third day in a row.
On Wednesday, striking workers braved the rain to rally, march, chant, beat on drums and blow whistles to garner support for their demands. Local 99, whose members earn a median salary of $25,000 annually, is asking for a 30% raise plus an additional $2 per hour for lower-paid workers, while the district offered a 23% raise plus a one-time 3% bonus for workers who were hired before 2020-21.
“I feel that this is a short-term loss for long-term gains,” said Maria Robledo, who teaches third grade at Liberty Boulevard Elementary in South Gate, adding that the strike is a sacrifice for everyone — parents, students and school staff alike.
Families scrambled again on Wednesday to secure child care and to focus their youngsters on homework assigned during the strike. The district opened dozens of child care centers throughout the city, but attendance was relatively sparse. On Tuesday, only 1,353 students showed up, likely because of the stormy weather. Those who did attend spent the day on school work, arts and crafts and sports.
The district also gave out more than 124,000 meals to students and families who rely on schools for food and other services.
On Wednesday, hundreds of striking union members gathered at the district’s Region East office in Lincoln Heights, where a surge of rain created a muddy, ankle-deep river. Special education assistant Jennifer Vivas said she hoped the union and district would reach an agreement soon, in part because of the disruption the strike has caused for families.
“Regardless of the outcome, it will better the schools, better our kids’ education,” said Vivas, who works at Pacific Boulevard Elementary in Huntington Park. “I hope that they understand, and they see a change.”
Isabel Barrientos, who attended the rally, said she hopes that the union’s demands will bring more staff to El Sereno Middle School in El Sereno where she works as a custodian. She’s determined to keep fighting for fair wages, she said.
“Hopefully it doesn’t keep going, but if it does, we’re ready,” she said.
Union workers, many of whom are also parents, said a few days’ inconvenience is worth the longer-term goal of higher wages.
At Liberty Boulevard Elementary, Francisco and Evelyn Ruiz dropped their son off a few minutes after the school’s child care center opened at 8 a.m. Both were on their way to nearby schools to participate in the strike.
“He liked it,” said Francisco Ruiz, who’s a high school teacher in the district.
At Saybrook Park in East Los Angeles, park aide Robert Castro handed out apples and Goldfish crackers to a few students who ran up to him as he stood near the door of the park’s recreation center, which served as one of the district’s child care centers.
“Thank you, mister,” a child called as he ran away. Most of the students who spent the day at the recreation center had left by late afternoon. He said more than 40 had shown, reflecting similar numbers to the day before.
“It came out of nowhere,” Castro said of the strike and the accommodations. “We didn’t know until they told us, but we made it work.”
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Jim 2 months ago2 months ago
Having had three children attend LAUSD, the pious pronouncements are gag-inducing. No one there cares about the kids.
SD Parent 2 months ago2 months ago
With Los Angeles' minimum wage ($16.04), the minimum annual income for someone working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year would be more than $32,000. So, the $25,000 median salary for Local 99 workers is clearly a result of part-time work, not merely low pay. The reality is that many school-district employees work far less than full-time (such as just a few hours per day for lunch duty) and only when schools are … Read More
With Los Angeles’ minimum wage ($16.04), the minimum annual income for someone working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year would be more than $32,000. So, the $25,000 median salary for Local 99 workers is clearly a result of part-time work, not merely low pay. The reality is that many school-district employees work far less than full-time (such as just a few hours per day for lunch duty) and only when schools are in session (meaning just 36 weeks per year), significantly less than for full-time work elsewhere. One existential question is whether part-time work for a school district should earn the equivalent of full-time work elsewhere.
Meanwhile, collective bargaining units tend to look at a school district’s balance sheet in a point in time and fail to distinguish between a surplus of one-time funding and the ongoing funding that would be needed to support the pay raises they are demanding. Currently, school districts (like LAUSD) have a lot of one-time federal and state funding that was provided to help students recover from the learning loss during the first year of the pandemic (due to “distance learning”), but those sources of revenue are slated to end, and future funding for education is expected to drop back down to the regular Prop 98 allocation.
So, the existential dilemma is that every additional dollar that goes into salary and benefits is a dollar that cannot be used to help students – especially to recover from the pandemic, such as by lowering class sizes (e.g. hiring more teachers), increasing the number of school support staff (e.g. nurses, counselors, classroom aides), providing extracurricular tutoring services, paying for additional classroom resources, etc.
Eleanor Sledwick 2 months ago2 months ago
Every additional dollar that goes into salary and benefits for school employees does help the students by retaining qualified staff and providing livable wages.
Dan Plonsey 2 months ago2 months ago
To follow up on this: Notice that the district does not dispute that their employees are underpaid: '"We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities...” the district tweeted. The dilemma you cite – choosing between "honoring hard work and correcting historic inequities" vs. lowering class size and perhaps hiring additional personnel – is only a dilemma if we accept that the state … Read More
To follow up on this: Notice that the district does not dispute that their employees are underpaid: ‘”We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities…” the district tweeted.
The dilemma you cite – choosing between “honoring hard work and correcting historic inequities” vs. lowering class size and perhaps hiring additional personnel – is only a dilemma if we accept that the state of CA can’t afford more, because you’re right: There’s an urgent need for both. Now, the top 1% in CA has increased its wealth by 50% since the pandemic began, 3 years ago, to $2 trillion ($2000 billion). By contrast, the total compensation for educational workers in CA, classified and teachers, is on the order of $60 billion/year. A 30% increase is hardly unreasonable – and even that would not do much to slow the increase in wealth inequality in CA, as these workers would be hard-pressed to save much.
And BTW, a google search found that the average pay for LAUSD custodians and Instructional Aides is around $20.50/hour for both. At that rate, 40 hours/week, 52 weeks/year, the average worker is at the HUD very low income level, less than half the median in LA.