Los Angeles, CA – Thousands of cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other essential school workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced that they will lead a three-day strike from Tuesday, March 21 through Thursday, March 23 to protest the school district’s unfair practices. During a spirited rally on Wednesday, March 15, United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing over 30,000 teachers at LAUSD announced that they will honor the strike and not cross the picket lines set-up by school workers.
Members of SEIU Local 99 have been negotiating with the school district since April, 2022 demanding equitable wage increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment, and increased staffing levels for improved student services. In December, SEIU Local 99 declared that negotiations had reached an impasse, prompting a state mediator to oversee negotiations. Last month, a clear and decisive 96% of LAUSD school workers represented by SEIU Local voted to authorize a strike.
Throughout the strike vote and during the bargaining process, workers have been subjected to surveillance, intimidation, and harassment by the school district. Dozens of unfair labor practice charges have been filed with the California Public Employee Relations board to protest LAUSD’s unlawful interference in workers’ right to vote and participate in union activities.
“I’m ready to strike for the respect we deserve,” said Janette Verbera, a Special Education Assistant at LAUSD. “I am a single mother and for the past 20 years I have worked two and sometimes three jobs just to support my family. I’m exhausted and not just because I’m physically tired, it is debilitating to do a job day-in-and-day-out that I passionately love and be at a salary below the poverty wage level. How do we properly service our students when we are being overworked and underpaid and disrespected?”
“As LAUSD parents and workers, SEIU Local 99 members know a strike will be a sacrifice but the school district has pushed workers to take this action,” said Max Arias, SEIU Local 99’s Executive Director. “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. Too many workers have been subjected to harassment simply for demanding change. Enough is Enough!”
Workers are calling attention to how the district’s overreliance on a low-wage, part-time workforce is impacting local communities and the quality of student services. The average salary of school workers at LAUSD is $25,000/year and most work part-time hours, making it difficult to retain and recruit sufficient staff for student services. This is leading to serious staffing shortages, including:
- Insufficient teacher assistants, special education assistants and other instructional support to address learning loss and achievement gaps
- Substandard cleaning and disinfecting at schools because of lack of custodial staff
- Jeopardized campus safety due to overloaded campus aides and playground supervisors
- Limited enrichment, after school and parent engagement programs due to reduced work hours and lack of health care benefits for after school workers and community representatives
SEIU Local 99 is a union of 50,000 education workers in K-12 schools, early education centers and homes, and community colleges throughout Southern California, including 30,000 cafeteria workers, special education assistants, custodians, bus drivers and others providing essential student services at LAUSD schools.