los angeles unified to reopen after 3 day strike
Schools in Los Angeles Unified were to reopen Friday following a three-day strike that drew nationwide attention to some of the district’s lowest-paid employees and interrupted instruction for 420,000 students.
The largest school district in the state, LAUSD, and Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents bus drivers, custodians, special education aides, and other employees, were still in negotiations as classes were scheduled to resume on Friday. They had upset some families concerned about additional learning losses following the pandemic when they had left work on Tuesday, joined by Los Angeles teachers.
The two sides indicated on Thursday that they were hopeful that they would soon reach an agreement with the assistance of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, but they withheld any information regarding the progress of the negotiations. Despite the union’s plans to resume work, if disputes over pay and working conditions could not be resolved, a second strike could occur in the upcoming months.
Even though there is only one day left in a week that also brought punishing rain to the Los Angeles region, both sides expressed hope that schools could quickly return to normal with healthy attendance. But it’s unclear how many families will choose to send their kids back to school on Friday or even be aware that the schools will be open.
Teachers and Local 99 employees stated that they anticipate a smooth transition back to school. During the strike, the district created online homework assignments and packets for students to complete at home, and teachers modified their lesson plans accordingly.
More about the Los Angeles 3- days strike
Gabriel Serrano, a special education teacher at Emelita Street Elementary in Encino, said the strike delayed some assessments, but he thinks the students were over-tested, to begin with.
We did have to explain to the students that since they would be taking three days off, they needed to finish up some assignments first, he said. “We’re going to have work we need to get back to.”
Due to the strike, all of the district’s schools were closed, forcing parents to scramble to find child care while students struggled to complete their online or paper homework during the three days they were not in class. Local 99 was joined on the picket lines by the teachers union, which is also in contract talks with the district.
The statements made by the negotiators were more ambiguous but optimistic than they had been earlier in the week before Bass got involved.
Blanca Gallegos, a representative for Local 99, said on Thursday, “We are hopeful that with the leadership of Mayor Bass, we will be able to reach an agreement that leads to living wages and respect and increased staffing for our students in LAUSD.” “(Union members) are going back to work with their heads held high … There is a new recognition from the school district and the entire city of the work they do.”
The district also expressed confidence that a deal was closed, without revealing details.
“We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district, and brings students back to the classroom,” the district tweeted. “We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution.”
To lessen the impact on students and their families during the strike, the district opened dozens of childcare facilities and provided more than 124,000 meals. Attendance was light at the childcare centers but thousands of families took advantage of the free meals.
Union members and their supporters demonstrated, marched, and chanted throughout the district to draw attention to their plight, frequently in the pouring rain. Loretta Pointer-Powell, a district bus driver, was one of the dozens of picketers who showed up outside Banneker Career Transition Center on Thursday. She said she’s proud of the impact the strike has made in showing the importance of positions like hers.
Pointer-Powell, a 35-year district employee, declared that “without us, the school district doesn’t run.” “They need all of us — bus drivers, school staff, custodians.”
While the district’s most recent publicly disclosed offer was for a 23% raise plus a one-time 3% bonus for employees who were hired before 2020–21, Local 99, whose members earn an annual median salary of $25,000, is requesting a 30% raise plus an additional $2 per hour for lower-paid workers.
Thousands of union members and their supporters gathered at Los Angeles Historic Park in Chinatown on Thursday afternoon for speeches about the importance of the district’s essential workers.
Regarding the two unions’ cooperation during the strike, teachers union president Cecily Myart-Cruz said to the crowd, “When we go back to schools tomorrow, you’re going to look at each other differently.”
Kristie Moran, a teaching assistant at West Hollywood Elementary School who was present at the rally, expressed her hope that the strike had demonstrated to the district the value she and her coworkers bring to the schools. She is excited to see her students when she returns to school on Friday, though. “I miss my kids,” Moran said. “I love what I do. That’s why I’ve been doing it for six years.”
The mood was festive at Figueroa Street Elementary in Vermont Vista on Thursday, as picketers danced to “Cha Cha Slide,” “La Chona” and “Payaso de Rodeo” playing from a loudspeaker on the grass.
Kindergarten teaching assistant Kathy Avechuco was one of nearly 40 picketers lined outside the school. She stated that while she is eager to see the labor disputes resolved, it will only happen if the union’s demands are met. She doesn’t want union strikes to become the norm.
“I don’t want to have to keep doing this every few years,” Avechuco said. “I hope we reach an agreement and we don’t settle. Then that defeats the purpose and we have to strike again.”
Some parents have complained about the inconvenience and disruption to their children’s education as a result of the school closures. Avechuco said she understands their perspective but hopes they understand that the strike will benefit their children in the long run.
I am here for the children. “I’m not just doing this for the money,” Avechuco declared. We can’t survive on this, though. We need more.”
L.A. Unified’s teachers’ union staged a six-day strike in 2019, and memories of that experience are fresh for many workers, students, and families. Third-grade teacher and United Teachers Los Angeles chair Julie Harrington predicted that the Local 99 negotiations would take a while.
Angeles chair Julie Harrington “I just hope that this superintendent realizes that teachers and SEIU are the people that take care of the kids”