In the nation’s second-largest school district, tens of thousands of school support employees in Los Angeles go on a three-day strike for higher pay. The employees, who work in non-teaching roles, such as bus drivers, custodians, landscapers, cafeteria workers, and assistants, represent Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union.
More than 1,000 schools are closed because of the strike, which impacts 422,000 students, Causes.com reported.
Local 99, which represents 30,000 workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District, voted to authorize the strike in February after contract negotiations between the union and the district, which started in April 2022, came to a standstill over the past few months.
The school support employees are asking for a 30 percent wage increase and a $2/hour increase for the lowest-paid workers because the majority make just above minimum wage. With the average salary of employees in Local 99 at $25,000 per year, Union Executive Director Max Arias said “a primary goal of the union has been to raise the average annual wage of members from $25,000 to $36,000,” the LA Times reported.
The union said that the strike isn’t just about pay increases, it was also necessary to call attention to unfair negotiating tactics on behalf of the school district. The negotiations between the union and the school district is run by an independently elected board and the mayor does not control the school district in Los Angeles, unlike other major cities.
As the three-day strike continues, United Teachers Los Angeles, a union that represents teachers, nurses, therapists, counselors and librarians, is urging its members to also go on strike in support of Local 99, the LA Times reported, but have yet to do so.
“You’re supporting the cafeteria lady with her hairnet that serves you food,” Scott Mandel, leader of the San Fernando Valley UTLA leader said to colleagues. “You’re supporting the custodian who cleans your room. You’re supporting the classroom aide that helps you with that unruly student.”
“There’s tremendous discontent among working people that this isn’t working for them,” Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, said. “The rise in worker organizing and the rise in worker strikes is absolutely a sign of the times.”