Thousands of cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and other school workers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have voted to authorize their elected co-workers on the bargaining committee to call a strike, union officials announced Saturday.
School workers cast their votes at more than 700 LAUSD schools, special education centers, early education centers, bus yards, nutrition centers, other district worksites, as well as online from March 12 through April 13. Votes were counted on April 14 and 94 percent of the membership voted to support a strike.
If there is no significant movement in negotiations with the District by April 30, SEIU Local 99’s bargaining team is prepared to begin the strike process, according to union officials.
Members of SEIU Local 99 have been in contract negotiations with LAUSD since March 2017. But no significant movement has been made on key issues, including wages and staffing shortages, according to Conrado Guerrero, SEIU Local 99 President and a Building Engineer with LAUSD.
Union members have been strongly advocating for increased staffing of custodians, Guerrero said. LAUSD is knowingly operating at substandard staffing levels for custodians, resulting in dirty schools and locked bathrooms. By LAUSD’s own admission, schools are staffed at 50 percent of the necessary levels, Guerrero continued.
“The dedicated school workers who transport students safely to school, feed them, support their classroom learning, and keep their classrooms and playgrounds clean have made our voices heard,” Guerrero said. “We are tired of this school district dismissing and devaluing our work. We are an essential part of student learning and if it takes a strike for LAUSD to understand that, we’re ready to take action.”
Wages have also been a key bargaining issue. During the strike vote, LAUSD increased their offer to a 3 percent wage increase that includes a 1 percent increase that incorporates extra work and/or training starting in the 2018-19 school year.
“It’s a minor increase to the district’s 2 percent offer which had been on the table for nearly a year,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias.. “It’s a step in the right direction but it’s not enough. A majority of school workers are also parents of LAUSD students. The District’s insistence on low wage, part time work has a direct impact on students as their parents struggle to pay rent and put food on the table.”
“We’re committed to continuing to negotiate with the District to avert a strike, but we will begin preparations for a possible strike immediately,” said Tanya Walters, SEIU Local 99 Vice President and an LAUSD Bus Driver. “We’re ready to strike if no other path forward can be found. This is about making sure every LAUSD student attends a healthy, clean and supportive school. It’s about ensuring that school workers who are devoted to student learning can provide for their own children.”
SEIU Local 99 has filed charges against LAUSD with the Public Employment Relations Board to protest alleged threats and harassment of union members, including allegedly denying access to some strike voting sites. These unfair labor practice charges were in addition to charges previously filed for bad faith bargaining, according to union officials.
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