Tens of thousands of workers in the nation’s second-largest school district walked off the job Tuesday and are accompanied by teachers in solidarity in a three-day strike that has shut its doors to 422,000 students.
The workers joined picket lines in the rain at a bus yard with signs reading, “RESPECT US!” demanding better wages and increased staffing. Other demonstrations are expected at schools across the city by members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents about 30,000 teacher’s aides, special education assistants, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and other support staff.
The district has more than 500,000 students from Los Angeles and all or part of 25 other cities and unincorporated county areas.
“The working conditions have gone down every year,” Daniel Murray, a special assistant who was picketing, told KABC-TV. “We’re very understaffed. The custodial staff is a ghost crew, so the schools are dirty. They’re doing the best they can.”
She added, “Some people are saying, ‘If you want more money, get a better job.’ Well, some of us have bachelor’s degrees, but we choose to work with a special population that some people don’t want to work with. We want to make a difference to these students.”
According to USAToday, passing drivers blasted horns in support as Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, spoke at a news conference outside Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools. “This is what solidarity looks like,” he said.
He added that the Los Angeles Unified School District failed to bargain in good faith and instead subjected workers to “stress and harassment.”
The strike left parents in a bit of a crisis, scrambling for childcare, meals, and substitute learning arrangements. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass reassured parents that the city would provide resources needed by the students and families in the city.
However, workers felt that the strike was their only option. Wages have not kept up with inflation and rising house prices, and people are no longer applying because you “can make more money starting at Burger King,” Instructional Aide Marlee Ostow said.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 35,000 educators, counselors, nurses, and other staff, said they’d be “joining our union siblings on the picket lines.” The teachers’ union is also bargaining with the district.
Teachers went on a six-day strike back in 2019 and ultimately agreed on a 6% raise for teachers, additional nurses, and school counselors and changes to how the system handles class sizes.