By Kiara Amaya
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reached an argument with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), officials announced on Friday.
The tentative deal, which must still be approved by Local 99 of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the LAUSD board, will include salary increases through 2024 and a bonus for current employees. It also increases minimum wage for LAUSD employees to $22.52 and adds health benefits for part-time employees working four or more hours a day.
These agreements come after a three day strike beginning on Tuesday, March 21. Joining in solidarity, the strike included as many as 65,000 workers, leaving LAUSD schools closed.
The Local 99 of SEIU represents more than 30,000 bus drivers, custodians, and special education assistant workers in the school system who are protesting unfair practices within the district. Additionally, UTLA represents about 35,000 teachers, therapists, counselors, librarians, and nurses in LAUSD are also participating in the strike.
The union sought “equitable wage increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment, and increased staffing levels for improved student services,” according to the UTLA website. Workers’ average salary is $25,000 a year, and most work part-time, which has led to staffing shortages, the union said in a statement.
As LAUSD staff and parents, SEIU Local 99 members acknowledge that striking is a sacrifice, but one they were willing to take.
“Families have been sacrificing for far too long on poverty wages. Students have been sacrificing for too long in school environments that are not clean, safe or supportive for all,” Max Arias, SEIU Local 99’s executive director said on the UTLA website.
Members who support the union fought for a 30 percent pay increase, plus an additional $2 an hour over the next four years and increased employment hours for part-time workers. LAUSD offered a recurring 23 percent pay increase and a 3 percent bonus, a $2o an hour minimum wage, and full health care benefits for those who work at least four hours a day.
Members of the SEIU Local 99 union have been in negotiations with LAUSD since April of 2022 where they urged the district for equitable wage increases, treatment with respect, more full-time work, and increased staffing levels in order to better services that are offered to students. In December, SEIU Local 99 stated that the negotiations had reached a deadlock. In February, 96 percent of LAUSD school workers that were represented by the union voted to hold a strike.
Staff are bringing the district’s reliance on low-wage and part-time workers to the forefront and stressing the negative effects on local communities and students. Low average salaries are leading to a shortage of staff including teacher assistants and other support that addresses learning gaps.
Below standard cleanliness and disinfecting at schools are putting campus safety at risk due to a lack of custodians on campus. Additionally, a lack of playground monitors and campus aides have decreased student protection. Students also have restricted enrichment programs and after school care due to reduced working hours and lack of benefits such as health care for after school workers.
Over 30,000 teachers and staff honored the strike by not crossing picket lines set up by protestors. The union has stated that under the law, workers who protest are protected, but not indefinitely.
Teachers, staff, and even some students protested in solidarity outside of local schools with signs and banners. Protestors stood firm despite the rain in the area on the first two days of the strike.
The district pleaded with state officials to put a stop to the strike in the week prior, arguing that the union is fighting over pay and not tactics of negotiation or bargaining. However, the state did not stop the strike.
With classrooms closed for thousands of students, parents who needed a place for their children to go, found that many community programs were providing supervision in places such as recreation centers. LAUSD also planned to send home instructional packets, supplies, and devices for student use as well as grab and go meals.
However, Granada Hills Charter (GHC) did not participate in the strike. In an informational email, Superintendent Brain Bauer said that GHC would “remain open and your student’s education at GHC will not be interrupted. Granada Hills Charter is an independent charter school, and as such, our teachers and staff are not subject to the labor negotiations and dispute between LAUSD and its labor groups. We will continue to provide students with the secure, uninterrupted, and high-quality learning environment that is a priority for our school community.”