In a second unprecedented strike among LAUSD workers in 5 years, schools close in retaliation against the picketing Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The three day long strike is a result of an expired union contract between LAUSD and SEIU that has been up for negotiation for several years. Additionally, the strike is functioning as the grounds for negotiation for more working hours, livable wages, and better working conditions. Striking in solidarity with SEIU, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) have joined the picket line. Alongside one another, the absence of both service and teaching staff has rendered most campuses completely dysfunctional- a testament to how absolutely essential the presence of campus staff is to the success of our schools.
Superintendent Alberto Carvahlo’s choice to close schools instead of resolving the issues within negotiations has only furthered tensions between the district, parents, and union representatives. Carvahlo is the former superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) and his status of a non-local made his appointment as LAUSD’s superintendent in February of 2022 controversial. Carvahlo later imposed acceleration days- optional days of school that would force students into an extra week of instructional time, without agreement from UTLA, sparking massive amounts of controversy.
The lack of communication in the implementation of acceleration days set a precedent for Carvahlo’s attitude towards union and worker negotiations. In a now deleted tweet, Carvalho refers to the negotiations as a circus show where SEIU workers are simply demanding “applause” and “coin.” The tweet certainly represents Carvalho’s outlook on SEIU’s demands. To him, they are not asking for a livable wage, more hours, or better working conditions, SEIU members are greedy and attention seeking. On a separate note, upon hiring and signing his 4 year contract in 2022, Carvalho agreed upon a yearly wage of $440,000.
Meanwhile, the average wage for members of SEIU local 99 is $25,000 yearly. Most of these workers are not permitted full time working hours, and need to take on multiple jobs in order to survive. Mr. Flowers, a campus aid at Eagle Rock Junior Senior high school is forced to take more than one job. “At the end of the day, I bust my butt at this school- helping out with the kids and everybody, and they don’t want to pay us.” Said Flowers as he picketed Tuesday morning, holding a sign reading “25,000 is not enough!”
The picket line in front of Eagle Rock Jr./Sr. High school was full of familiar faces from 6 to 10 AM, but teachers and service staff members were not the only people in the fray. Student presence within the recent negotiations and demonstration efforts have been quite strong. Tuesday and Wednesday morning, an ERHS club set up a booth providing striking staff members coffee. Humanities for the Homies, a political education club at Eagle Rock, set up a small booth with free coffee and hand warmers to help demonstrators battle the bitter weather conditions the strike had to perform under.
Humanities for the Homies is not an exception. Students Deserve, an LAUSD-wide student advocacy group, has been incredibly present at every level of negotiations and demonstration. Students Deserve has created a much needed student presence in district decisions, providing student perspective and organizational support.
I spoke to Anthony Colla, ERHS’ snappily dressed UTLA representative, and he had this to say about the importance of both union’s demands. “Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. So, it’s the same thing. If we had better working conditions, our students would have better learning conditions, and can learn better!” It is abundantly clear, the necessities of SEIU and UTLA are also the necessities of LAUSD students.
The sun shined on LA Historic Park on Thursday. After two straight days of rain, the clouds parted and numbers remained strong as ever. Bands roared and horns screamed.
“What do you want!!”
“When do you want it?”
The announcer is met with a cacophony of cheers from the raving crowd. The entire Chinatown area is chock full of red and purple clad protesters. Laughing, sharing stories, creating a line about a mile deep out of a popular Chinatown food spot, Burgerlords, demonstrators from all walks of LAUSD life showed up.
Whether that be picketing outside of their local schools, attending rallies, bringing teachers coffee, or making people free tacos- everyone did their part to create community during the three days of action.
Members and supporters showed up in full force, a sign of their passion and dedication to defending their prosperity and demanding respect from an administration that has treated them poorly. Truly, an age old story.