The possibility of a labor strike is looming over Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), as two major unions announced their plans to stage a walkout next week. The SEIU Local 99 and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) will commence their strike from Tuesday through Thursday in demand of better pay, benefits, and job security.
Months of negotiation and collective bargaining between the unions and LAUSD officials have led to this dramatic escalation that would potentially disrupt the education of more than half a million students in the district. It marks the first time that the SEIU workers, mainly bus drivers, cafeteria staff, and custodians, will join forces with UTLA, representing 34,000 teachers, counselors, and school nurses, in their demands.
The Proposed Strike
The announcement of the possible strike exploded through a huge crowd of thousands of union workers outside City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday. Workers dressed in red and purple shirts cheered as union leaders announced their plan.
SEIU is seeking a 30% pay increase, better job security, and full-time status guarantee for part-timers who make up 65% of their members. The union says most of its workers get paid an average of $25,000 a year, making it difficult for them to afford basic needs, such as housing and food. Unlike teachers, SEIU members do not receive pay during summer vacations, adding to their financial woes.
“I think we’re worth 30% for all we’ve done,” said Armida Pacheco-Perez, a special education assistant who has worked in LAUSD for over 30 years. “We work hard, and we are critical to the district’s functioning. It is time that we get paid what we deserve.”
On the other hand, UTLA has been engaged with LAUSD officials over a range of demands that include a 10% annual raise for two years, smaller class sizes, and support for the district’s recovery plan needed to address the learning loss caused by the pandemic.
“We are fighting for our rights and for the well-being of our students,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz. “We cannot stand idly by as our colleagues in SEIU are mistreated and underpaid. It is time for the district to invest in the public education system that serves all children in Los Angeles.”
As expected, LAUSD officials have warned that the strike would severely impact operations within the schools, forcing the district to shut down schools entirely for three days. This would further exacerbate losses incurred by students during the pandemic, which experts warn could have long-lasting effects on the academic achievement gap and future workforce productivity.
In a statement issued earlier this week, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho urged the unions to continue negotiations in good faith, as the district has more to offer if SEIU is willing to negotiate further. He warned that a strike would be destructive to the community and the district’s goals.
“Let’s avoid a strike that would be damaging to everyone involved and lead to unnecessary disruptions,” said Carvalho. “We’re working hard to establish a learning packet program to distribute to families, and we’re partnering with community groups to provide limited child care and food options.”
As the strike looms, the community is bracing for disruption and uncertainty. The unions and the district officials remain at odds with each other, and a compromise seems a long way off. The effects of the walkout will not only impact the ability of students to access quality education, but it could also lead to potential layoffs and financial losses for all parties involved.
It is crucial for both parties to reach a deal quickly and end the labor dispute, given how crucial education is in the lives of the future generations of Los Angeles. The stakes for the district and its students are too high to be left to chance, and a resolution should remain the top priority for all involved.