Article 43


Friday, March 24, 2023

LA Teachers And Service Workers Unite

image: solidarity

Kudos to the teachers who joined the picket line in solidarity.

Let’s not forget the screwing our rulers did to the railroad workers LAST MONTH:

After a 3-year saga of stalled contract negotiations between the country’s freight rail carriers and the 12 unions representing over 100,000 railroad workers, “pro-union” President Biden and Congress last week “averted a national rail shutdown” by overriding the democratic will of rail workers and forcing a contract down their throats.


image: Los Angeles Unified School District LAUSD workers and supporters rally outside a LAUSD district office

Demonstrations, protests mark first day of LA school strike

By Sequoia Carrillo
March 21, 2023

Hundreds of thousands of students were out of school today in Los Angeles as the country’s second largest district ground to a halt. The union representing bus drivers, maintenance workers and other support staff began a three-day walkout, and THE UNION REPRESENTING THE CITY’S TEACHERS JOINED THE STRIKE IN SOLIDARITY

The protests began early as drivers and supporters gathered before dawn at the Van Nuys school bus depot.

“I love that everybody came out, even in the rain, to support this,” said Maria Betancourt, a bus driver. “We need everybody to come out.”

The strike comes after more than a year of negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and its superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, over pay and health benefits.

“We understand the plight, the frustration and the realities faced by our workforce members,” Carvalho said Monday evening. “We’re willing to work with them, but the way we find a solution is by having a partner at the table to actually negotiate possible results.”

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 represents traditional service employees like custodians and cafeteria workers, along with more specialized positions such as special education assistants. Despite the critical roles these workers play in the operation of a school, the union says the average salary of its members in the district is $25,000 per year, with many of these employees working part time.

The SEIU is demanding a 30% increase in base salary over four years. The district administration has agreed to a 23% raise over a five year period, along with bonuses, but the union has not responded to the past three offers.

Many of its members feel a lack of respect from the district’s leadership. “I don’t think they want to listen to us ... to our needs,” said Betancourt.

A few hours later, the union’s Executive Director Max Arias, echoed those concerns at a demonstration outside Robert F Kennedy Community School in Koreatown. “If LAUSD truly values and is serious about reaching an agreement,” he said, “they must show workers the respect they deserve.”

Yolanda Mimes Reed, a special education assistant who attended the rally in Koreatown, says she works four jobs in order to afford to live in Los Angeles. “I work for in-home support services, I do hair, and I also have an online boutique,” she said.

To her, the pay increase in the union’s demands would make a huge difference. “It means being out of below the poverty line. And it means letting go of one of those jobs so I don’t have to be working all the time. I can spend some time with my family.”

The majority of LAUSD’s 420,000 students are from families who live at or below the poverty line, and depend on schools for far more than just classroom instruction. District officials are working with the city and local volunteers to provide students with breakfasts and lunches, as well as to help families with child care for working parents during the planned three-day walkout.

This is the second strike in the school district in four years. In 2019, the United Teachers of Los Angeles, or UTLA, WENT ON STRIKE for six days before reaching an agreement. The union says it is standing in solidarity with SEIU this week, while also continuing its own contract negotiations with the district.

Among the teachers’ demands is a similar wage increase and a cap on class sizes. So far, the district has not given much - citing concerns over its finances.

Carvalho, the former Miami-Dade superintendent who came to Los Angeles 13 months ago, says the district, with its $14.8 billion operating budget - is existing in a financial bubble right now. Enrollment is declining, it’s hard to keep teachers’ positions filled, and in a few years the padding of COVID relief money will be rolled back.

Carvalho says he’s fighting to protect the district’s financial security. Union leaders say they’re protecting their members who, in many cases, struggle to make ends meet despite working jobs that clearly keep LAUSD running.

And, stuck in the middle are the students and parents who’ll be scrambling today.



Los Angeles school strike ends, but a deal hasn’t been announced
Los Angeles Unified School District support staffers earn, on average, about $25,000 a year, barely enough to get by in one of the most expensive cities in America.

By The Associated Press
March 24, 2023

A THREE-DAY STRIKE by workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District ended Thursday, but it wasn’t immediately clear if any progress was made in negotiations for higher pay for teachers aides, bus drivers, custodians and other support staff in the nation’s second-largest school system.

TEACHERS JOINED THE PICKET LINES in solidarity, SHUTTING DOWN INSTRUCTION for the district’s half-million students during the walkout by members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 of the lowest-paid school workers. Support staffers earn, on average, about $25,000 a year in Los Angeles, barely enough to get by in one of the most expensive cities in America.

Mayor Karen Bass stepped in as mediator Wednesday after district Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate.

Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said the union was grateful that Bass was helping “find a path out of our current impasse.” There was no indication Thursday how the arbitration was going.

“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.

Carvalho has called the school district’s offer “historic.” It includes a cumulative 23% raise, starting with 2% retroactive as of the 2020-21 school year and ending with 5% in 2024-25. The package would also give a one-time 3% bonus to those who have been on the job more than a year. It would also add more full-time positions and expand health care benefits.

Sofia Munoz, a special education teacher’s assistant, said she hoped the labor action sent a message to Carvalho.

“Were hoping just to bring awareness and let the superintendent know that we’re here to make a difference,” Munoz said Thursday at a rally marking the strikeҒs final day.

The school district confirmed in a statement Wednesday that school officials have been in talks with union leaders with help from the mayor.

“We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historical inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district and brings students back to the classroom,” the statement said.

The union said employees, including special education assistants, cafeteria workers and gardeners, would return to work on Friday.

The strike concluded after putting a spotlight on the issue of NOTORIOUSLY UNDERPAID WORKERS who serve as the backbone of schools across the country.

SEIU Local 99 says many of its members live in poverty because of low pay or limited work hours while struggling with inflation and the high cost of housing. The union is seeking a 30% raise for workers.

While the Los Angeles Unified School District is unique because of its size, the walkout could have lessons for other systems in the state, said Troy Flint, spokesperson for the California School Board Association.

“LAUSD could be the canary in the coalmine when you look at the potential for difficult labor negotiations in school districts across California,” he said.

Districts are coping with staff shortages and other challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, while working to address other longstanding issues including student performance that predated the pandemic, according to Flint. In addition, emergency pandemic funding from the state was set to expire next year, which will stretch district finances even thinner after decades of underfunding, he said.

“It’s natural that employees want to better compensated for their important work,” Flint said. “There is a lot of tension between what districts want to do and what they have the capacity to do.”

Leaders of United Teachers of Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 educators, counselors and other staff, pledged solidarity with the strikers.

Experts say it is unusual for different unions in the same school district to band together but the unified labor action in Los Angeles could mark an inflection point.

Luz Varela, a teacher’s aide, said workers felt like they had to strike.

“I feel sad that we have to go through this because were missing our kids, but weҒre doing this for our kids,” she said. “I feel that we deserve a little bit more. Its not all about the money. This is about our future for our kids.”


Posted by Elvis on 03/24/23 •
Section American Solidarity
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