The newly-elected Karen Bass is not taking a public stance on the three-day teacher strike that started on Tuesday and has caused significant disruptions in the school system and street protests. Nevertheless, she stated she is monitoring the issue and is actively participating in the behind-the-scenes negotiations.
“I consider this of the utmost importance, and that is why I am personally engaged,” Bass told Politico.
While Karen Bass was in Sacramento receiving a prize from the Legislative Women’s Caucus, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is running for California’s open Senate seat in 2024, was picketing with school professionals outside in the rain. The Democratic Party of Los Angeles has also publicly supported the Service Employees International Union Local 99.
However, Karen Bass stated she is not looking to make the strike about herself and she doesn’t want to hamper the process.
“I’m a person that stays focused on the goal, and I keep my eyes on the prize,” the mayor told Politico. “I have no need to grandstand.”
In the midst of service professionals and teachers’ street protests for better wages, Bass has made herself unavailable in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Schiff called for an end to service workers earning “poverty” wages while standing in the rain on Tuesday.
“The median income of our bus drivers and our cafeteria workers and our school aides is $25,000 a year,” Schiff said. “Who can live on $25,000 a year? Those are poverty wages.”
Caring for students is one of the most meaningful careers.
I stand with the bus drivers, custodians, teachers aides and others of @SEIULocal99.
No one can live on $25,000. We must invest in schools and pay fair wages.
It’s time to support those who support our kids. pic.twitter.com/V8K50OIh8g
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 21, 2023
Like in several U.S. cities, Karen Bass doesn’t have direct authority over the Los Angeles Unified School District. The strike serves as the first genuine test for Karen Bass, who campaigned on tackling rising homelessness and crime rates in the city.
Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents almost 30,000 employees, staged a walkout, causing a further strike from supportive teachers.
“If she were to get involved, it would be a game-changer,” said Jackie Goldberg, the school board’s president. “With her personal relationship with SEIU and its leadership, I think she would be able to be very persuasive.”
School professionals proclaimed their intention to strike last week on Wednesday following prolonged discussions with the district. Max Arias, the executive director for SEIU Local 99, stated in a statement on Monday that planned discussions with the district were called off after disclosing details about the meeting.
The union wanted to increase wages by 30% to raise the average salary to $36,000. They stated earlier that they’re uninterested in negotiating.
The district offered a 20% wage increase, a 3% bonus, and improved healthcare benefits.
The United Teachers Los Angeles, who represent 35,000 educators, are asking for a 20% pay increase.
Although Karen Bass didn’t make a public declaration, she stated that she has made it clear to both sides that classified employees’ salaries and working conditions, who usually make $25,000 a year on average, are unacceptable.
She also said she would serve as a mediator between the district and unions if it would be helpful, which is more like to occur once both sides are ready to figure out a deal.
“I think that a collaborative, behind-the-scenes style can be very effective when it comes to bringing warring sides together,” said Ana Guerrero, who served as former Mayor Eric Garcetti’s chief of staff, told Politico. “Because the mayor, if they’re effective when it comes to these situations, they don’t take a side, they don’t wag their finger.”