Education Workers Begin Three-Day Strike In Los Angeles

Education workers backed by the teachers’ union have commenced a three-day strike in Los Angeles at the second-largest school district in the United States.

The Service Employees International Union Local 99, representing bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and classroom assistants, called the strike after last-minute negotiations broke down on Monday.

The strike in the Los Angeles Unified School follows a six-day teachers’ strike in 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic that closed classroom instruction for more than a year in 2020 and 2021.

The union, which said 96% of its membership had authorized the strike, is demanding a 30% salary increase plus a further $2 per hour for the lowest-paid workers, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The 35,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles is also walking off the job in support, saying it wants to bring educational workers out of poverty, reduce class sizes and ensure each school is fully staffed.

Thousands of protesters gathered for a rally in the rain outside the Los Angeles Unified School District headquarters, vowing to continue their pickets for the next two days.

The work stoppage is the latest in a series of job actions by educators across the United States who have complained of burnout and low wages, leading to a teacher shortage in many parts of the country.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told reporters on Tuesday the district was offering a 23% raise plus a 3% bonus and that “there are still additional resources to put on the table.”

“We understand the frustration,” Carvalho said, acknowledging that workers had been underpaid for years and offer to remain on standby around the clock in order to reach a deal to end the strike early.

Education experts have been warning of staff burnout for years. Those concerns grew when the coronavirus pandemic put additional stress on teachers, many of whom left the profession for better pay in the private sector, where their skills and education were valued.

“What’s happening in L.A. is going to happen in all the major cities if we don’t start doing something collectively as a nation,” said Jamie Sears, a former third-grade teacher who now teaches a master class for educators.

The strike has disrupted classes for 420,000 students, many of whom also depend on schools for meals, counselling and other social services.

The city opened dozens of meal and safe-place sites on Tuesday for students.

“I will make sure the wellbeing of L.A. students always comes first as I continue to work with all parties to reach an agreement to reopen the schools and guarantee fair treatment of all LAUSD workers,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement.


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