LAUSD unions expected to strike for 3 days next week, leading to school shutdown

Tim Pulliam Image
Thursday, March 16, 2023
LAUSD unions expected to strike for 3 days next week
The SEIU, which represents 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other employees, is looking for a 30% total increase in the multiyear contract.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Thousands of LAUSD employees are expected to go on a three-day strike next week, leading to the closure of district schools.

SEIU Local 99, representing some 30,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other workers, says it has reached an impasse in negotiations with Los Angeles Unified and will strike starting Tuesday.

And the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, which is undergoing its own negotiations, plans to honor SEIU's action by also striking.

The two unions combined represent some 65,000 workers.

Thousands of members attended a rally in Grand Park on Wednesday to announce the strike.

"We are preparing to strike because after nearly a year of negotiations with the district, they have not been fruitful," said Blanca Gallegos with SEIU Local 99. "Workers are asking for a living wage. Right now workers of LAUSD earn below the poverty line."

Espi Polley will be on strike outside her school. The special needs teacher at Sheridan Street Elementary hold a master's degree, but says she can't survive off her salary alone. She says low wages and support have led to low morale.

"Nothing breaks my heart more than to see very talented staff members walk away and leave public education because it's such an exhausting field to work in," she said.

The district says its latest offer to the union was: a 5% wage increase retroactive to July 2021, another 5% increase retroactive to July 2022 and another 5% increase effective July 2023, along with a 4% bonus in 2022-23 and a 5% bonus in 2023-24.

But the SEIU is looking for a combined total 30% increase in wages over the course of the next multiyear contract.

Union officials have said the affected workers earn an average salary of $25,000 a year and have been working without a contract since June 2020.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is urging the union to return to the bargaining table.

"SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate. With a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU's demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated, it is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so," Carvalho said in a statement. "... I want to personally apologize to our families and our students. You deserve better. Know that we are doing everything possible to avoid a strike.

City News Service contributed to this report.