Union negotiators for about 30,000 school support staffers in California’s Los Angeles County struck a historic deal with the second-largest district in the United States on Friday after a three-day strike.
Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, special education assistants, teaching aides, and other school staff — backed by about 35,000 educators of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) — walked off the job on Tuesday and continued to strike through Thursday.
The tentative contract agreement, which must still be voted on by SEIU Local 99 members, was reached with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) after mediation from Democratic Mayor Karen Bass.
The deal would increase the average annual salary from $25,000 to $33,000, raise wages by 30%, boost the district minimum wage to $22.52, provide a $1,000 COVID-19 pandemic bonus, secure healthcare benefits for part-time employees who work at least four hours a day, and guarantee seven hours of work for special education assistants.
“The agreement addresses our key demands and sets us on a clear pathway to improving our livelihoods and securing the staffing we need to improve student services,” SEIU Local 99 said in a statement. “It was members’ dedication to winning respect from the district that made this agreement possible.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that during a Friday news conference at City Hall with Bass and Alberto Carvalho, the LAUSD superintendent, Local 99 executive director Max Arias declared that “here in California this agreement will set new standards, not just for Los Angeles, but the entire state.”
“I want to appreciate the 30,000 members that sacrificed three days of work, despite low income, to raise the issue to society, that we as a society need to do better for all workers, all working people, for everyone,” Arias added.
While the strike meant about 400,000 K-12 students weren’t in classes for three days this week, “many parents stood in support of union employees,” according to KTLA, with one local parent saying that “it’s obvious all over the schools that we’re really not putting the support where it’s needed and our children are suffering because of that.”
In a series of tweets, Local 99 thanked people from across the country for their solidarity this past week and stressed that the LA mayor, who has no formal authority over LAUSD, “was instrumental to getting the district to finally start hearing our demands.”
Bass, in a statement, thanked Arias and Carvalho “for working together with me to put our families first” and emphasized that “we must continue working together to address our city’s high cost of living, to grow opportunity, and to support more funding for LA’s public schools, which are the most powerful determinant of our city’s future.”
Carvalho said Friday that “when we started negotiating with SEIU, we promised to deliver on three goals. We wanted to honor and elevate the dignity of our workforce and correct well-known, decadeslong inequities impacting the lowest-wage earners. We wanted to continue supporting critical services for our students. We wanted to protect the financial viability of the district for the long haul. Promises made, promises delivered.”
Contract talks with district teachers are ongoing. When announcing support for Local 99’s strike earlier this month, UTLA president Cecily Myart-Cruz said that “despite LAUSD having one of the largest school budgets and largest reserves in the nation — teachers and essential school workers are struggling to support their own families and live in the communities they work for.”
The strike and pending deal in California come amid a rejuvenated labor organizing movement across the United States, with employees of major corporations including Amazon and Starbucks fighting for unions.