(CNN) — A union representing 30,000 Los Angeles school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other support staff will begin a three-day walkout Tuesday, effectively halting classes to more than half a million students.
Members of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 99 will leave the job after nearly a year of negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District that failed to reach a contract resolution.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced that school activities would be canceled for students starting this Tuesday after last-minute negotiations, which included new raise offers, failed.
The union wants “equitable pay increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment and higher staffing levels to improve student services,” he said.
The average wage for the workers is $25,000 a year, and most work part-time, which has led to staff shortages, the union said.
The union is getting a boost of support from United Teachers Los Angeles, a union that represents some 30,000 teachers in the second-largest school district in the country.
UTLA said the teachers will participate in a strike solidarity this week and will join the SEIU demonstrations.
The demands and the offers
Members of SEIU Local 99 (United Education Workers) said they want to:
• A 30% pay increase, plus an additional $2 per hour for the next four years
• More work hours for part-time workers temporary workers
The latest deals announced by the Los Angeles school district on Monday included:
• A 23% recurring salary increase, plus a 3% cash bonus
• A minimum wage of US$20 per hour
• Comprehensive health care benefits for those who work at least four hours a day.
“We shouldn’t deprive our students,” says superintendent
The school district has tried to negotiate in good faith, said Carvalho, the LAUSD superintendent.
“Under California law, we cannot bankrupt the school system. We cannot drive the school system into a red position. And if we agreed to all the demands, that’s exactly where we would be, that’s not legally allowed,” Carvalho told CNN.
“We are eagerly awaiting a counter-proposal and are ready to put another compelling offer on the table to continue the dialogue,” Carvalho said. “We believe that a strike is avoidable and should be avoided, considering the consequences it would have on our community.”
If the three-day strike goes ahead as planned, the students will suffer, the superintendent said. He said the strike would make it “virtually impossible” to keep schools open in the district of more than 500,000 students.
“We should not deprive our students of the opportunity to learn,” Carvalho told CNN.
But the leader of the education workers’ union said a strike might be the only way to force change.
“If the district doesn’t realize that our members are valuable… once they stop working, nothing will really change,” said Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99.
“Ultimately, what we are looking for is to improve schools: equity in schools. That’s what we’re looking for.”
“Families have been sacrificing for too long”
This week’s strike will mark the second time in less than five years that Los Angeles students have missed school due to a strike.
The district was closed for a six-day strike in 2019, when the Teacher’s union he demanded classes with fewer students, more school staff, and higher salaries.
followed a wave of strikes across the countrydriven by the terrible school conditions and the teachers who They had multiple jobs to pay their bills.
The LAUSD superintendent said a strike by school workers this week would negatively affect students.
“We need to come to a resolution that honors the work of our dedicated employees, while respecting our children’s rights to a quality education, food and access to enriching school activities,” Carvalho said.
Announcing that schools would close Monday, Carvalho said the district would offer help to families, including opening 24 take-out sites, 154 schools that will provide supervision for students, and about 120 city-run sites in libraries, recreation centers and other places.
The Los Angeles Zoo is also offering free admission for students due to closures and its zoo camp program day care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade added two free hours of “extended care” per day.
But the union leader said he understands the challenges families face when schools close due to strikes. Many of the workers are also parents of the school district.
“As parents and LAUSD workers, SEIU Local 99 members know that a strike will be a sacrifice, but the school district has pressured workers to take this action,” Arias said it’s a statement.
“Families have been sacrificing for too long on poverty wages. Students have been sacrificing for too long in school environments that are not clean, safe, or supportive of everyone,” Arias said.
“Too many workers have been harassed simply for demanding change. Enough is enough!”
— CNN’s Camila Bernal, Sarah Moon and Taylor Romine contributed to this report.
Source: CNN Espanol