March 21 (UPI) — The nation’s second-largest school district, located in Los Angeles, closed on Tuesday as service workers International Union of ancillary workers went on strike for three days over pay increases.
SEIU, which represents about 30,000 support workers ranging from teacher aides and canteen workers to bus drivers, said many of its members live in poverty due to a salary of around $25,000 a year in Los Angeles.
The union is demanding a 30% raise, and the Los Angeles Unified School District said he responded by offering what he called a “historic” regular 23% raise and a 3% cash bonus.
The local teachers’ union is also seeking a 20% raise within two years, and its teachers are on strike in solidarity with support workers, effectively forcing schools in the district, which has about 600,000 students in about 1,000 schools, to close.
Negotiations have dragged on for about a year, and last month more than 95% of the union’s members voted to sanction a strike if negotiations do not go through.
Los Angeles Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said his team was ready to negotiate and suggested that the union refused to sit down at the negotiating table.
“I made myself available with my team within a few hours [Monday]hoping that we can actually talk for a whole range of reasons, some of which I don’t understand,” Carvalho said at a press conference. “We have never been in the same room or even in the same building.”
SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias on Monday blamed the Los Angeles Unified School District violations “confidential mediation process” by discussing disagreements with the media before them.
“This is yet another example of the school district’s continued disrespect for school employees,” Arias said in a statement. “We are ready to strike. We want to make it clear that we are not negotiating with LAUSD. We continue to engage in a dead-end process with the state.”