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LAUSD strike begins, shutting down America’s second-largest school district



At 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 21, time officially ran out for the Los Angeles Unified School District to reach an labor contract agreement and avert a long-looming and heavily dreaded three-day strike.

Related: Here’s where families can get help during LAUSD strike

In the dark and early hours of the morning scores of school bus drivers arrived at the Van Nuys Bus Yard in time for their normal shift, but instead of getting behind the wheel they got into picket lines, rallying in the rain to demand higher pay and better working conditions.

By 7 a.m. on a Tuesday morning the sun had just risen and a crowd of workers gathered outside of Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Koreatown for a press conference featuring Congressmember Adam Schiff.

“People with some of the most important responsibilities in our schools should not have to live in poverty,” said Schiff. “I am proud to be hear. I am proud to support my brothers and sisters in their fight for decent wages.

The striking workers appeared undeterred by the steady pour toting umbrellas in one hand and signs bearing slogans like ‘we’re essential every day, we demand respect!’ in the other.

The strike is led by SEIU Local 99, the service worker union representing 30,000 bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and special education assistants. They are joined by members of the teachers’ union, United Teachers Los Angles, who are also walking off the job in a show of solidarity.

While both unions are seeking contract agreements, it is the concerns of SEIU members — who have an average salary of 25K — that are at the forefront of the strike. They are seeking a 30% raise over time, more reliable hours for part-time workers and a crackdown against employee harassment.

“We are on strike because we’ve had enough,” said SEIU Local 99 President Conrado Guerrero. “As a building engineer I was called an essential worker by LAUSD during the pandemic. They seen to have forgotten that.”

“Enough of the disrespect,” he added.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, for his part, expressed dismay after negotiations crumbled on Monday.

“Despite our invitation for a transparent, honest conversation that would perhaps result in a meaningful solution that would avoid a strike, we must formally announce that all schools across LAUSD,” he said in a Monday evening statement. “We continue to be able to have a conversation tonight, in the early morning and all throughout the day tomorrow.”

As a result of the unions’ collective action, the district has shut down schools and is offering food distribution and student supervision sites for what is gearing up to be three tumultuous days of protest.

“The superintendent and district had ample time to bargain in good faith with the unions,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said. “They could have done that with respect and dignity, but they chose not to do that.

The district fought to stave off the strike through 11th hour bargaining sessions and a legal effort to have the Public Employee Relations Board declare the strike unlawful. Ultimately, neither efforts proved fruitful and labor leaders grew increasingly frustrated with the district.

“LAUSD’s unfair tactics at bargaining table, during the strike vote, and in the media won’t shake the resolve of 30,000 hard-working school employees who are determined to fight for their right to bargain for better wages and the staffing our students need,” said Max Arias, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99. “SEIU Local 99 members are standing strong on the strike lines today because LAUSD must be accountable to bargain fairly so we can create the schools our children deserve.”

Carvalho, meanwhile, bemoaned the impact that three days of lost learning will have on thousands of students who are still struggling to recover from the pandemic. The district has provided students with take home educational packets during the strike and is working in coordination with the City of LA to offer resources to families.

This includes more than 150 student supervision and food distribution sites at school campuses and County parks and recreation centers across Los Angeles. More information on site hours and locations can be found at:

Dozens of libraries and parks, plus some “grab and go” spots for students to get lunches also planned to be open to kids to lessen the strain on parents now scrambling to find care.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


Source: Orange County Register

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