LA school strike: Teachers dance in the rain while parents scramble for child care

Sarah Harris
Teacher Sarah Harris joins Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD teachers and Service Employees International Union 99 (SEIU) members striking as rain falls outside the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center in Los Angeles Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Tens of thousands of workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District walked off the job Tuesday over stalled contract talks, and they were joined by teachers in a three-day strike that shut down the nation’s second-largest school system. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) Damian Dovarganes/AP

LA school strike: Teachers dance in the rain while parents scramble for child care

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The school staff strike in Los Angeles entered its second day Wednesday after an unusually wet day on Tuesday saw striking employees dancing in the rain as families lined up to get take-home meals.

The strike is set to last through Thursday as school service employees in Los Angeles Unified School District have walked off the job amid an impasse in negotiations between the Local 99 chapter of the Service Employees International Union and the school district. The union’s membership is made up of district cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and other staff. They have been joined on the picket line by the LA teachers union, which joined the strike in solidarity.

600,000 LOS ANGELES STUDENTS STUCK AT HOME AS THREE-DAY SCHOOL WORKER STRIKE BEGINS

Schools in the district have been closed since the strike began on Tuesday, forcing families to scramble to make alternative child care plans. Families that typically rely on school meals were afforded the opportunity to pick up three days worth of bagged lunches at a number of distribution centers around the city.

The school district says it distributed 124,596 meals on Tuesday at the drive-up distribution sites, which included a number of recreation facilities. Cars lined up in the pouring rain throughout the day to pick up their meals. The city also provided a number of child supervision sites to assist with child care.

Meanwhile, the picketers also braved the wet streets of Los Angeles and filmed choreographed dances in the street while holding umbrellas.

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The service workers union is requesting a 30% pay raise across the board for all school service workers, plus a $2 per hour “equity wage adjustment” as well as changes to working conditions, including more staffing and the ability to file grievances. The average wage for service workers is $25,000 per year, and workers typically do not work full-time hours, according to the union. The union says the district offered a 3.7% raise.

The union is also seeking healthcare benefits, cashed-out vacation pay, more full-time work hours, and paid professional development days.

“30,000 workers standing together can’t be intimidated, bullied, or underestimated,” Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said in a statement this week. “Despite LAUSD’s misleading statements in the media and threats against workers who are exercising their right to take action, our movement is only growing stronger. Teachers, students, and parents in the district are standing with school workers and their right to take action — free from fear — to bargain for better wages and increased staffing in our schools.”

With the impasse showing no signs of breaking, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass stepped into negotiations Wednesday in the hopes of breaking the stalemate.

“District officials have been in conversation with SEIU Local 99 leaders with the assistance and support of Mayor Bass,” the school district announced Wednesday. “We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district, and brings students back to the classroom. We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution.”

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Arias also expressed gratitude for Bass’s involvement, saying, “We are grateful that the mayor has stepped in to provide leadership in an effort to find a path out of our current impasse,” according to Los Angeles Daily News.

“Education workers have always been eager to negotiate as long as we are treated with respect and bargained with fairly, and with the Mayor’s leadership we believe that is possible,” Arias said.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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