Leaders of a union that represents low-wage workers in financial difficulty will announce the timing of a three-day strike on Wednesday that would involve teachers and force the closure of public schools in Los Angeles, dealing another blow to education. of more than 420,000 students.
The disengagement of as much as 65,000 workers – expected to take place over the next two weeks – would represent the biggest and longest complete disruption to education in the country’s second-largest school system since the six-day teachers’ strike in 2019. Not even the campus closures of the COVID -19 pandemic, which lasted more than a year in Los Angeles, resulted in a complete shutdown of school education.
The labor action comes as district officials discuss plans to offer two optional school days during spring break – April 3 and 4 – a project that has so far attracted only a small fraction of students, about 6,000. Officials said they would be happy to reach 340,000 or more, but are determined to press ahead with anyone who registers before the March 24 deadline.
This extra learning time – called acceleration days – has become caught up in the labor dispute, with teachers’ union leaders and supporters calling the optional days an expensive and poor use of resources.
The impending walkout would be led by Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union. Local 99 represents approximately 30,000 workers, including bus drivers, custodial, cafeteria and other food service workers, campus security aides, teaching assistants and school aides. students with disabilities.
Local 99 would be joined in a sympathy strike by United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians.
Superintendent of LA Schools. Alberto Carvalho announced Monday evening that campuses would close because he could not keep students safe without teachers and support staff.
To families, he said: “We encourage you to start discussions now with your employer, childcare providers and others.”
To employees, he said, “We are doing everything we can to provide students with resources for learning, social-emotional well-being and food in the event of a strike.”
For many union members, the walkout represents a painful but necessary step towards reaching a contractual agreement to improve the lives of employees, while helping to recruit and retain high-quality workers serving students.
“Hopefully there won’t be a three-day work stoppage but obviously that’s something we may have to do to bring people’s attention to the decision to increase our salaries,” said Karimu McNeal, who works as a parent and community representative for 20 hours a week at Dorsey High in South Los Angeles.
McNeal said she plans to attend a Wednesday afternoon rally in downtown Grand Park hosted by Local 99 and UTLA.
For many parents, a strike would mean unnecessary harm to students and families.
“SEIU is one of the unions standing up for workers with the lowest wages,” said Diana Guillen, head of the district parent advisory committee for English learners. “These workers are part of our community. We agree that they get a raise. But I don’t agree with a strike. Academically, that won’t help at all.
The teachers’ union had strong support from parents during its 2019 strike; there is no reliable indicator of where most parents stand this time around.
Moderators of the large Parents Supporting Teachers Facebook group said the blame should lie with school district officials if campuses close.
“There is not a single parent in this school district who wants a strike, not one,” co-founders Nicolle Fefferman and Jenna Schwartz said in a statement. “And although we are not budget specialists, we see a constant rollout of new programs, new logos, acceleration days and other initiatives that cost a lot of money when the true value of our schools are the people inside.
“You know what’s cheaper and less cumbersome than outsourcing tutoring? Smaller classes. Just as our children will not succeed in school without food, neither will our staff,” the group leaders said. “We don’t want acceleration days; we want cafeteria workers to be paid fairly.
Another view came from Lourdes Lopez, who has children in three district schools.
“Why are they going on strike when our children have to be in school? I understand the unions want to have an impact, but they can’t do it with the district,” said Lopez, who is a member of the group Our Voice: Communities for Quality Education. “Our children are so behind. … There is a lot of anxiety for our families, especially Latino families like mine. We live in cramped spaces and we will have our children at home during the day without being able to teach them – the disruption will be enormous.
Local 99 leaders said their strike would be a protest against alleged illegal actions by LA Unified during the bargaining process. According to the unions, such actions, called strikes for “unfair labor practices” by the National Labor Relations Board, generally last for a fixed period and can be organized without going through the stages of negotiation which usually precede an indefinite strike. .
LA Unified officials have denied any wrongdoing.
Local 99 leaders recently declared an impasse in negotiations and are moving forward with the mediation and investigation process. The union, which has yet to settle pay issues dating back to the 2020-21 school year, is demanding a 30% raise for all members, with an additional boost for the lowest-paid workers.
The teachers’ union is calling for a 20% increase over two years, starting with 10% for the current school year. The union bargaining platform is broad and covers a number of social justice and labor issues, including a commitment to provide additional resources for black students and affordable housing for low-income families.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a strike,” council chairman Jackie Goldberg said. “They put pressure on us. That’s what unions do.
She noted that another bargaining session will take place on Friday: “I think we have a basis to reach an agreement with these two unions, before a strike is necessary.”
Board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said there was a lot at stake.
“We need more instruction time, not less, and our workers deserve to be well paid,” Franklin said. “Many of our SEIU members in particular are the parents of our LA Unified students.”