Tens of thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) union workers have shut down the nation’s second-largest school system as they made good their threat of a three-day strike for better pay.
Demonstrators played hooky on Tuesday, braving the rain and picking up picket signs at LAUSD’s Van Nuys bus yard, outside the city’s public schools, and at a large rally held at LAUSD headquarters in Westlake, KTLA reports.
As many as 60,000 members of the Local 99 of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) threw their support behind the strike, plans for which have been stewing for several weeks.
According to the SEIU, which is demanding a 30% raise, many district support staffers live in poverty as a result of low pay and limited work hours, with employees earning just $25,000 per year — a salary that is largely eaten by inflation and the high cost of Los Angeles County housing.
UTLA is asking for a 20% pay increase over two years, and though its wage dispute is separate, “its union leaders said it would honor the other union’s stoppage and stand with fellow school district employees,” according to KTLA.
“They are the people who make our schools run,” Monica Vieira, a teacher who was out in support of SEIU members, told the outlet. “Our schools are dirty because we can’t keep them staffed.”
“Our children deserve better than this, these people deserve better than this, we have to be here to support them,” she continued. “Parents, we have to take care of these people, we have to take care of them because they take care of our babies.”
“We feel that those folks — as frontline workers who fed our families during the pandemic, who kept everyone safe — they also deserve to keep their families safe,” said Canek Peña-Vargas, another teacher. “We’re proud to be standing side-by-side with them.”
After nearly a year of bargaining for better wages, SEIU99 Executive Director Max Arias insists the strike, which shut the school doors on 500,000 Californian students, was the “workers’ last resort,” according to the Daily Mail.
Online, the unions are being slammed for “abandoning classrooms & students in Los Angeles.”
“Here’s the real message when the unions go on strike: Teachers aren’t essential; Families who work don’t matter,” tweeted American Federation for Children CEO Tommy Schultz, who added, “Make all strikes ILLEGAL. We need SCHOOL CHOICE NOW.”
“Los Angeles K-12 government schools dramatically underperform. Covid virtual teaching resulted in substantial student learning loss. Enrollment has dropped in favor of private schools and homeschooling,” noted conservative talk radio host Larry Elder. “So, what do LAUSD teachers do? Why, strike for more money, of course.”
“The Los Angeles school district received $6,400,000,000 in Covid funding and the Teachers Union got a big chunk from Biden’s infrastructure bill and now the L.A. teacher’s union is on strike?” asked another incredulous Twitter user. “Time to defund and get rid of Teacher’s unions!”
Los Angeles K-12 government schools dramatically underperform. Covid virtual teaching resulted in substantial student learning loss. Enrollment has dropped in favor of private schools and homeschooling. So, what do LAUSD teachers do? Why, strike for more money, of course. pic.twitter.com/WC7Jhb9oIb
— Larry Elder (@larryelder) March 22, 2023
Ahead of the strike, Blanca Gallegos, director of communications for SEIU Local 99, speaking with KCAL, dismissed the idea that a wage increase would bankrupt the district and burden taxpayers.
“The reality is, the superintendent has been misleading, saying things like, ‘the district will go bankrupt’ or ‘it’s unaffordable,'” Gallegos said. “They have a $14 billion budget. LAUSD has this large budget, and increasing the wages of workers above the poverty line would only go about seven percent of the budget.”
Arias, who promoted a march to Defund the Police in 2020 appears thrilled with the unions’ shutdown of the schools and was quick to brag about his membership.
“Once you learn you have power, it’s not easy to take it away,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “They’ve shut the district down!”
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