SEIU launches strike
With the pandemic, various problems have been exposed as people struggle to deal with the crisis. One catergory that saw a major overturn was the education system, as the pandemic exposed the financial difficulty teachers face regularly, but also the shortage of teachers, which led to the available ones being overworked.
The pressure put on teachers to perform in these situations with a lack of support led to a strike by the teachers and other union members.
“I’m not making ends meet,” said Nena Martinez. “I’m left with nothing. And that’s what I tell a lot of people because they’re like, ‘Oh, get on welfare.’ And then I’m like, ‘They already told me I make too much. So I can’t even get that.’”
Martinez is a part-time cafeteria worker at Roscoe Elementary, where she makes $16.91 per hour and raises her 10-year-old son alone.
The strike included nearly 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees represented by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
SEIU has spent months pushing for a 30% wage increase and improved working conditions. The district countered that offer with a 15% wage increase, which is one of the reasons the strike occurred this past Monday.
Other demands made by both unions include an increased pay of $2 an hour over the next four years and increased employment hours for part-time workers. The district countered with a 23% recurring pay increase, plus a 3% cash-in-hand bonus, A $20-an-hour minimum wage, and full health care benefits for those working at least four hours a day.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho issued a statement Monday morning after negotiations fell through: “We should not be depriving our students of an opportunity to learn. With hours to go, I continue to appeal to union leadership to return to negotiations. We can find a solution that dignifies our workforce and avoids an unnecessary shutdown of schools while protecting the long-term viability of the school system.”
Max Arias, SEIU Local 99 executive director, also made a statement after the failed negotiations on Monday: “Teachers, students, and parents in the district are standing with school workers and their right to take action — free from fear — to bargain for better wages and increased staffing in our schools.”
While the union and districts are at a crossroads, parents and students are feeling the effects of the disagreement.
“I will have to look for somebody to take care of him because I don’t have someone at my disposal since I work from home,” said Sara Flores, a parent with a young son at Madison Elementary School in South Gate. Flores says she supports the strike, despite the difficulties she and her son could face.
Other parents have different feelings. Willy Coria is frustrated with the strike and thinks the kids should be the focus as they are suffering the most.
“What are we supposed to do?” he asked. “We give up this money, we give up everything that we do, and we work hard to try to give our kids a better education. What’s going to happen?”
The strike was scheduled through March 23, barring a contract agreement. Different venues have offered support to LAUSD employees and students by opening their space to provide shelter and food during school hours . Visit https://tinyurl.com/um94uwfs.