Tens of thousands of workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are set to strike for three days next week over stalled contract talks, and teachers will join them, likely shutting down the nation’s second-largest school system, union leaders announced Wednesday.
Unless a deal is reached, the strike was set to begin Tuesday, March 21. It was announced at a rally by the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 teachers’ aides, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 35,000 teachers, counselors and other staff, expressed solidarity.
“Educators will be joining our union siblings on the picket lines,” a UTLA tweet said.
Teachers waged a six-day strike in 2019 over pay and contract issues but schools remained open.
This time, schools would likely close and there wouldn’t be any access to virtual learning, Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in an email to parents on Monday.
“We would simply have no way of ensuring a safe and secure environment where teaching can take place,” Carvalho said.
Carvalho also accused the union of refusing to negotiate.
“Let’s go to the table,” Carvalho said in a news conference Wednesday. “Let’s stay at the table. Whatever time, whatever place, until such time as a solution is reached.”
The district has more than 500,000 students. It serves Los Angeles and all or part of 25 other cities and unincorporated county areas.
SEIU members have been working without a contract since June 2020 and the contract for teachers expired in June 2022. The unions decided last week to stop accepting extensions to their contracts.
The SEIU says district support staffers earn, on average, about $25,000 per year and many live in poverty while struggling with inflation and the high cost of housing in LA County.
SEUI is seeking a 30% wage raise for its workers across the board, according to CBS Los Angeles, while LAUSD says it has offered a 10% raise up front, along with another 9% that would be provided over time.
“Despite LAUSD having one of the largest school budgets and largest reserves in the nation, teachers and essential school workers are struggling to support their own families and live in the communities they work for,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement Wednesday. “To add insult to injury, the district has chosen to violate their legal rights as workers, resulting in an unfair labor practice strike.”