Mayor Bass Enters Negotiations Between LAUSD And SEIU As Strike Rolls Through Day 2
A strike that shut down the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday has rolled into its second day.
Service Employees International Union Local 99 represents 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and other LAUSD support staff. The union has been bargaining with LAUSD for close to a year, and called for a three-day strike this week. The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, joined in solidarity.
On Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Karen Bass's office confirmed she is facilitating discussion between SEIU 99 and LAUSD, but emphasized that the parties involved are taking the lead.
'They deserve it'
Many of the parents who have spoken to LAist have said they'll do their best to ride out the strike, although child care has been a consistent struggle. With schools closed, parents picked up food and homework while union rank-and-file demonstrated for public support.
Hundreds of thousands of children in Los Angeles depend on public schools for a free or reduced-price lunch. To keep stomachs full during the strike, LAUSD set up grab-and-go food sites.
At a pick-up spot in Glassell Park, mom Julianna Centeno grabbed some milk, cereal, and fresh fruit. Her daughter Amira is in preschool at Montevista Early Education Center.
LAUSD, with the help of community partnerships, is offering some child care and some meals during the three-day strike by support staff and teachers. The district said parents should expect students to receive work packets to do at home.
Here's our guide to child care and resources during the strike.
Like many parents LAist heard from, Centeno didn’t know the schools would be closed until she got a call from the district over the weekend. She supports the support staff who have walked out, in part because her lengthy commute to Santa Monica means Amira gets many hours of care from her school.
"It’s a long period of time so that’s why I’m like, yeah, they deserve it," she said.
Efron Zepeda brought his nieces Emily, Camila, and Samantha to the Glassell Park pick-up spot. He had the day off, so he has child care responsibilities. For the next two days, while the kids' parents are working, "we got grandma."
Parent Alex Riguero says her kindergartner is bouncing between a group of working-from-home parents. Riguero wants more transparency with the district’s budget.
"Where is all this money that we voted for, where is it going?" she said. "Why isn’t it going to staff if it’s being utilized in some way?"
The staff on strike
As his union prepared to strike Monday night, Max Arias, the executive director of SEIU Local 99, said demonstrations were the only path forward.
“We have to interrupt. We have to create shock, and we have to show that, there's value in investing in the human beings that provide these services," he told LAist. "And it's part of, of how we improve the schools.”
In a statement released last Thursday, SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias said this strike is about "respect," and that SEIU members have been subjected to threats and other forms of harassment by the district.
SEIU Local 99 is asking for:
- A 30% raise over four years
- A $2 per hour raise
- More (longer) work hours
- Health benefits
- A stop to private contractors
According to information provided by SEIU, the average union member's pay falls in the range of $17-23/hour, working an average of five to six hours a day, for the 180-day school year. Many SEIU members say they work second and third jobs.
Members of SEIU Local 99 and UTLA kicked off demonstrations early Tuesday morning as rain swept across Los Angeles.
Arias said it’s possible the strike could be shortened, but it would depend on the district’s willingness to rebuild trust. Arias said district leadership has shared too many details of potential negotiations with the public before giving the union a chance to consider its position.
Arlene Rodriguez, an 8th grade math teacher at Hollenbeck Middle School, has taught in LAUSD for 17 years. She joined demonstrations outside LAUSD headquarters on Tuesday afternoon.
"We're just trying to make sure that we get that funding to make sure students have the best environment possible," she said.
The LAUSD school board postponed its regular Tuesday meeting. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho told NPR on Tuesday that he met with board members in a closed session "to iron out some of the issues and refine some of our final proposals." Carvalho said their latest offer to the union included a 23% wage increase, in addition to a 3% bonus, cash in hand.
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