After last-minute talks to prevent a strike stalled, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second-largest school district in the country — is closed as staff members begin striking. New York City’s school district is the largest school district in the nation.
About 30,000 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and special education assistants, among other jobs, hit the picket line Tuesday morning, KABC reported.
The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, is supporting its members’ coworkers and is honoring the picket line, KNBC reported. The teacher’s union also has about 30,000 members.
The SEIU is demanding better working conditions, including at least a 30% increase in wages, in a district where school workers earn an average of $25,000 a year, according to KNBC. That would equate to about $36,000 a year, if the wage increase is granted, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Local 99 also wants to have staffing shortages be addressed, increased hours for part-time workers, health care for part-time workers and improved sanitation and maintenance on school campuses. It also wants a $20-an-hour minimum wage, CNN reported.
The district has countered with a cumulative 23% raise, with a 2% retroactive increase for the 2020-2021 school year and a 5% raise in the 2024-2025 year. It also has a one-time 3% bonus for employees who have worked since the 2020-2021 school year. District leaders have also proposed extra hours, more full-time jobs and better eligibility for health care, The Los Angeles Times.
The newspaper says that the district has about 420,000 students enrolled.
The school superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, said the strike would cause unnecessary harm to students, adding to the setbacks students have already experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a strike in 2019 that caused a six-day shutdown.
Union leaders called the strike unfortunate but necessary.
While the schools are closed through Thursday, the district is providing families grab-and-go foods and 154 schools will be open for student supervision, CNN reported. An additional 120 city-run libraries, recreation centers and other locations will be open for use by students.
The Los Angeles Zoo is offering free student admission and an all-day zoo camp for students from kindergarten through 5th grade and has added two hours of free extended care, CNN reported.