The Los Angeles school strike is over, but no deal has been announced

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A three-day strike A strike by Los Angeles Unified School District workers ended Thursday, but it was unclear if any progress had been made in negotiations for teacher aides, bus drivers, custodians and other support staff at the nation’s second-largest school system. .

Teachers joined the picket line In a show of solidarity, members of Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents about 30,000 of the lowest-paid school employees, closed classes for the district’s half-million students. Support staff earn an average of about $25,000 a year in Los Angeles, barely enough in one of America’s most expensive cities.

Mayor Karen Bass stepped in as mediator Wednesday after County Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho accused the trade union of refusing to negotiate.

Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said the union was grateful Bass was helping “find a way out of our current impasse.” There was no indication Thursday how the arbitration was going.

“Educators have always wanted to negotiate as long as we are treated with respect and we trade fairly, and with the mayor’s leadership we believe that is possible,” Arias said.

Carvalho called the school district’s offer “historic.” It includes a cumulative 23% increase, starting at 2% retroactive to the 2020-21 school year and ending at 5% in 2024-25. The package will also give a one-time 3% bonus to those who have been in the job for more than a year. It would also add more full-time positions and expand health care benefits.

Sophia Munoz, a special education teacher’s assistant, said she hopes the labor action sends Carvalho away.

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“We’re hoping to just raise awareness and let the superintendent know that we’re here to make a difference,” Munoz said at a rally marking the final day of the strike on Thursday.

The school district confirmed in a statement Wednesday that school officials are negotiating with union leaders with the help of the mayor.

“We continue to do everything we can to reach an agreement that respects the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, preserves the district’s financial stability and puts students back in the classroom,” the statement said.

The union said employees, including special education assistants, cafeteria workers and gardeners, will return to work on Friday.

The strike ended after the issue of poorly paid workers came under the spotlight which serve as the backbone of schools across the country.

SEIU Local 99 says many of its members live in poverty due to low pay or limited work hours while struggling with inflation and high housing costs. The trade union demands a 30% increase in workers’ wages.

While the Los Angeles Unified School District is unique because of its size, the study could hold lessons for other systems in the state, said Troy Flint, a spokesman for the California School Boards Association.

“LAUSD could be the canary in the coal mine when looking at the potential for difficult labor negotiations in school districts across California,” he said.

Flint said districts are dealing with staffing shortages and other challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic while working to address other long-standing problems, including student performance that preceded the pandemic. In addition, emergency pandemic funding from the state will expire next year, further stretching the county’s finances after decades of underfunding, he said.

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“It’s natural that employees want to be better compensated for the important work they do,” Flint said. “There’s a lot of tension between what districts want to do and what they have to do.”

Leaders of United Teachers of Los Angeles, which represents 35,000 teachers, counselors and other staff, pledged solidarity with the strikers.

Experts say it’s unusual for different unions to unite in the same school district, but the unified labor action in Los Angeles could mark a tipping point.

Luz Varela, a teaching assistant, said the workers felt they had to strike.

“I’m sad that we have to go through this because we miss our kids, but we’re doing it for our kids,” she said. “I feel we deserve a little more. It’s not all about the money. This is about the future of our children.”

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