More than 420,000 students in the Los Angeles school district, the second largest in the United States, stayed home on Tuesday (21), during the first of three days of a strike called by employees of public education institutions that demand better wages and working conditions.
Bus drivers, guards, inclusive education student aides and cafeteria workers at 1,000 schools in the greater Los Angeles area are demanding a 30% pay raise and an additional $2 per hour for lower-paid employees.
Grouped in the Local 99 section of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the 30,000 striking workers believe a raise is needed to deal with the high cost of living in the city in recent years.
Local 99 unsuccessfully negotiated with the school district until late yesterday afternoon, after also meeting last week, when the best and last offer arrived: a cumulative 23% increase in workers’ wages since 2020.
“The school district considered us essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they seem to have forgotten. Negotiations are currently at an impasse,” Conrado Guerrero, president of Local 99, said during a rally in downtown Los Angeles.
The superintendent of the school district, Alberto Carvalho, issued a statement saying that he would seek to resume the dialogue, but stressed that last week’s proposal was already a “historic offer” that recognized “the great sacrifices of this group of workers”.
Schools in the strike district serve 300,000 breakfasts and 285,000 lunches to students of Latin American origin and blacks from disadvantaged communities, who will receive food at 24 locations in the city organized by the city during the strike.
United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), a union of 35,000 teachers, showed solidarity and joined the strike as it negotiated a 20% wage increase over two years, starting with 10% for the current school year.
SEIU members have been working without a contract since June 2020, and the teachers’ agreement expired in June 2022.
The current strike marks the longest interruption in the country’s second-largest school system, following the six-day teachers’ strike in 2019.
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