Approximately half a million students in Los Angeles missed school on Tuesday as tens of thousands of employees employed with the second-largest district in the nation went on strike. The workers demand increased wages to contend with the high cost of living in Southern California. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees, consisting of approximately 65,000 workers and serving 442,000 students, initiated the strike after a year of attempting to negotiate pay increases and health benefits with district officials failed to produce an agreement.
The three-day strike was organized by The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 union and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTA), representing educators and other school district employees, including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and teaching aids. Union officials are calling for a pay increase of 30% in base salary over four years, an additional $2-an-hour increase for the lowest-paid employees, and other compensation increases. The majority of full-time and part-time workers earn an average of $25,000 annually, which barely covers the expensive cost of living near the district schools.
Union members state that the strike is necessary since the district management has been unresponsive to their negotiation tactics, and employees are struggling to make ends meet, with many working multiple jobs to afford to live in Los Angeles.
Union officials reported that the district offered them a 23% raise over five years, including bonuses, but the unions have not responded to the past three offers. They hope to stand in solidarity with parents so that they can take care of their families.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stated that he hoped to have a “transparent, honest conversation” to stop the planned three-day strike.
The strike marks the district’s second protest in the last four years; the United Teachers of Los Angeles went on strike six days before reaching a deal.
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