As SEIU strike comes to a close, no deal reached with LAUSD
March 23, 2023
This article was updated to clarify information about LAUSD’s fact-finding efforts.
On the third and final day of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 strike, negotiations continued with Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass stepping in to serve as a mediator between SEIU and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).
“It’s the stuff that we deserve,” said Special Education Assistant Jesus Leano, who has been with the district for eight years and currently works at Valerio Street Elementary School. “It’s not fair for us to be doing as much stuff as we do and not get compensated for it.”
LAUSD schools shut down starting March 21, when SEIU began their three-day strike demanding “equitable wage increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment and increased staffing levels for improved student services,” according to a statement put out by the union.
SEIU continued discussions with the district on March 22, with LAUSD posting a statement on social media announcing Bass’ mayoral office’s participation in the negotiations. According to Bass’ office, they are facilitating the discussion between the two parties as they take the lead in negotiations.
Bass, who has served one hundred days in office as of now, has shown support for the SEIU workers, calling the ongoing strike “a disappointment.”
“LAUSD employees make very low wages and some are really struggling to meet their basic needs,” said Bass in a broadcast interview with ABC7 Eyewitness News. “Whatever it takes to bring both sides together, to get resolution, that is what I’m going to do. We can’t have the schools shut down.”
Bass’ mediation at Wednesday’s negotiations fell through, leading the union and district to begin fact-finding about LAUSD’s alleged obstruction of the strike being established and employee harassment. The process, which has not yet begun, will include determining whether the district can afford SEIU’s proposal of a 30% wage increase. LAUSD’s proposal includes a 23% wage increase. The talks did not affect the three-day strike, nor reduce the possibility of any future walkouts.
The walkout by SEIU has also been supported by teachers from United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), who themselves have been pursuing a 20% wage increase from LAUSD. Many chose not to go to work to stand in solidarity with the SEIU members.
“I think they know that we’re serious about it,” said UTLA member Victoria Morrow, who teaches universal transitional kindergarten at Valerio Street Elementary School and has been a teacher at LAUSD for five years. “And I think before they did not.”
Morrow believes that the strike has demonstrated to LAUSD that SEIU and UTLA are united.
She went on to say that UTLA’s support shown by not crossing the picket line has impacted negotiations to the service workers’ benefit.
“I would say that this is a minor disruption for a major, positive change,” said UTLA member Krystle Krantz, who has been working in LAUSD for one year as a kindergarten teacher at Valerio Street Elementary School.
Arguments that missed school days are minor or a necessary sacrifice have been refuted by Carvalho. In a conference this week, he stated that every school day is important and employees could secure the finest contract the district could afford without going on strike.
“This is a moment of importance for every worker,” said Special Education teacher and UTLA member Samuel Campos, who has been working at Valerio Street Elementary School for about ten years. “I think that if we do achieve whatever the goals are, whatever the demands that the workers want to see from the district, we will attract more people to do that job and we won’t be losing as many people right now. They’re not happy with these working conditions.”
Many SEIU workers have said they work long hours of difficult labor, earning a median of $25,000 a year. They also say they are not making a living wage on this pay, as it is below the poverty line for those that live in Los Angeles.
“With the hope that we get what we’re asking for, they give us our 30% and they treat us like we’re human, not clowns,” said Special Assistant Angelina Nabarretes, who has been with the district for four years and is currently working at Valerio Street Elementary School. “No matter what position we’re in, whether it’s cafeteria, supervision aide, Special Assistant, it doesn’t matter. We’re all extremely understaffed, we’re overworked and (the district) just looks down on us because (SEIU workers are) just making food, they’re just cleaning the bathrooms, they’re just watching the kids. They don’t deserve anything.”
LAUSD students will be returning to school on March 24, but the possibility of future walkouts is still a reality, according to the Los Angeles times. As negotiations continue, a contract has yet to be agreed on.
The California Legislative Black Caucus and members of the California State assembly have sent letters to Carvalho and LAUSD Board President Jackie Goldberg, urging a fair bargaining process and respect for SEIU members.
“I have three paraprofessionals in my classroom and I couldn’t do my job without them,” said Special Education Teacher Emma Klein, who has been with LAUSD for eight years and is currently working at Valerio Street Elementary School. “It would literally not be safe in my classroom if I didn’t have them supporting me. My students run out the door, they hit, they bite, they kick. Why would anybody want to do that job when they could go work at In-N-Out and make more money and not get beaten up?”