Kristine Pascaul | The Poly Post

Union workers reach tentative agreement with LAUSD

By Kristine Pascaul, April 11, 2023

Los Angeles Unified School District reached a tentative deal with the union including a wage increase and healthcare benefits, with labor contracts still in the works following a three-day strike.

Friday, March 24, LAUSD and the union workers reached a potential agreement which includes a 30% or more wage increase plus fully paid healthcare benefits. The pact was helped mediated by Mayor Karen Bass and if officially approved by union members, could prevent LA district campuses from being shut down again in the future.

This strike was not solely about a wage increase, but also asking for more full-time staff to clean schools, cook for students and provide after-school care for students who are in need of it.

The district stated despite an ending balance of $4.93 billion for the current school year, the district could face financial troubles in the coming future. However, on Monday, April 3, the budget was updated to $5.12 billion with the district still claiming potential financial risk.

The teachers union argued the picture is much simpler than it appears. They argue the union has enough money to afford the 20% raise being demanded by workers. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho stated he will not agree to a contract the district cannot afford.

The strike costed the district $100 million due to lost student attendance funding, as well as the loss of three days of school. The employees also missed out on three days of pay. Student attendance had not fully recovered after the strike ended, with only 71% of student attendance.

Employee unions have yet to settle an official contract.

With the two unions combined, around a thousand schools were shut down which left about 420,000 students without school for three days. 

Kristine Pascaul | The Poly Post

However, according to complaints made by state regulators the three-day strike may have been illegal. The unions walked out before they completed an official negotiation process, which put LAUSD in an “impossible situation.”

Former LAUSD worker and Cal Poly Pomona parent, Maria Mejicanos explained her experiences working as a teacher assistant under the LA district.  

“I’ve never been a teacher for LAUSD, but I was in their union for the special education assistants, and they do have amazing benefits, but they (workers) are very overworked,” Mejicanos said. “I chose to leave because LAUSD is a huge monster and I wanted to go somewhere where I thought I could make a difference.”

Monday, March 20 Carvalho pleaded with employees and offered a 23% increase along with a 3% bonus. The unions declined and proceeded with the strike.

Wednesday, March 22 Mayor Karen Bass stepped in to voice support for the district. The district tweeted an update. 

“District officials have been in conversation with SEIU Local 99 leaders with the assistance and support of Mayor Karen Bass,” tweeted the district. 

The strike ended Thursday, March 23 at Los Angeles State Historic Park with union members wearing red and purple and celebrating by making noise by banging drums and buckets.

United Teachers Los Angeles stayed off the job in solidarity with Local 99 and joined picket lines.

Workers in the participating unions are fed up with the district and are not only demanding a raise, but for more respect from the LA district. They feel they deserve better treatment and are asking for $2 more per hour for the lowest-paid employees. 

English Professor Dewey Hall at CPP believes the raise LAUSD offered is reasonable. 

“I think 5% is reasonable and I think 10% is probably on the high side. Somewhere in the middle is what I think they’ll eventually settle at,” Hall said.

Hall explained how each school district functions as its own entity. 

“Most districts, as long as they’re prudent always have a cash reserve that they should not tap into because they need to keep at least a 2% cash reserve for rainy days,” Hall said. “If the school district approves the raise, then they would have to take money from other areas in order to give to the staff.”

The last LAUSD strike was right before the pandemic in 2019, which was a six-day teacher strike. Unlike this strike, teachers then were asking for smaller class sizes as well as more school nurses and counselors.

The average yearly pay for LAUSD aides, including special education workers, is $27,531. The average pay for the unit that consists of bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers is $31,825. Both of these salaries are lower than the average salary for a cashier at In-N-Out with starting annual pay at $32,750.

Stephanie Garcia, a teacher at Preuss School in La Jolla, California emphasized the severity of a strike. 

“For a strike to occur, so much had to fall apart,” said Garcia. “When we were counseled about unionization, they taught us about all the different levels of negotiation and strike. Only when there’s really nothing else you can do, that’s when you strike.”

Feature image by Kristine Pascaul

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