LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho remains hopeful the district can avoid a three-day strike planned for next week and is calling for the union to return to the bargaining table.
Carvalho indicated the district has "more resources" to offer in negotiations if SEIU Local 99 is willing to reopen talks.
The union, which represents some 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other employees, plans a three-day strike starting Tuesday, saying more than a year of talks with the district have not been fruitful.
United Teachers Los Angeles, which is holding its own talks with the district, plans to honor the SEIU's picket lines. With more than 60,000 district employees out, schools are expected to close during the strike.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Carvalho urged the union to not let that happen.
"We have more resources to put on the table," the superintendent said. "I believe if we have a chance, an opportunity to have a dialogue and actually put those resources on the table, we will find a solution that dignifies our workforce, dramatically increases their salary, without creating conditions that should be unacceptable to anyone in this community as far as our kids are concerned."
The SEIU is looking for a total 30% wage increase over the multiyear contract. The union has claimed the district has $4.9 billion in reserves to draw from. But Carvalho disputed that figure, saying an independent auditor found that number to be a "falsehood."
Carvalho said the district has made "powerful proposals" with compensation levels that exceed state and local averages, plus improved hours and benefits.
"If we come to the table, where we actually can negotiate these issues, rather than shouting at each other from a distance, everyone will recognize how close we are."
If a strike does happen, the superintendent said, the district is prepared to support families by distributing food at dozens of sites across the community and providing parents with packets to help their children do schoolwork at home.