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City workers go on strike for increased pay, benefits


’Summer os strikes’ continues

Workers and unions across different fields are fighting back and protesting against their employers and work practice policies. Many of the strikes have centered around pay wages, benefits, and labor, while others centered around toxic work culture and sexual harassment.

On Aug. 8, city workers held a one-day walkout strike to protest alleged unfair labor practices by city officials during contract negotiation between the City of Los Angeles and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). City officials refuted the accusations in a statement. “We bargained in good faith and have not committed any unfair labor practices”. Things are at a stalemate between parties, but Alexander Volberding, an attorney at  Liebert Cassidy Whitmore’s Labor Relations practice group, provides insight into the situation.

“Many people coined this summer as strike summer, but the problems and strikes started last summer when SEIU threatened to go on a strike and withhold the labor of 55,000 county employees,” Volberding said as he talked about one of the factors that led to the occurrence of numerous strikes this summer. “The conditions of the work actions have existed for at least a year now, and the conditions in the economy have empowered the union and workers to demand more for their work and better compensation as the lack of workers put them in power to make demands.”

Strikes have been happening all year, with LAUSD staff workers first holding a three-day strike for better pay and working conditions, and other unions followed suit.

“The ability to strike is an important tool for workers, but public entities have very few means to prevent or stop a strike, which is a difficult situation to be in when certain public employees, such as teachers, nurses or correctional officers, who provide services that cannot be interrupted without threatening the health or safety of those under their care or supervision,” Volberding said.

Volberding highlighted that while the one-day strike for SEIU may not seem like a big deal, it does put the city on notice. “ I suspect the strike on [Aug. 8] was a bargaining strategy by SEIU to get what they want from the city. It seems like a show of force to city leaders that city workers will withhold their labor until contract demands are met,” Volberding said in providing insight on what could come next. “Workers will continue to use their labor as leverage to get a better salary and benefits, so we can expect more strikes and longer strikes until the end of the year as that is when the contract is over.”

Volberding illustrates the worst-case scenario being that workers go on a prolonged strike and city services like sanitation work and construction will cease to exist, putting stress on residents to go out of their way to either perform services on their own or wait it out until a contract renewal. “Most city residents won’t feel the effects of a one-day strike, but a one-month strike will put everybody in a bad precedent as many depend on the city services.”

You can support your fellow city workers by visiting city hall, and talking to city leaders and elected representatives, and spreading the message that the community and community leaders support the workers and their demands.