Two Los Angeles Unified School District unions, comprised of about 65,000 workers, are prepared to strike next week amid negotiations for better pay and wider access to health care, among other demands.
The school district, with about 565,000 students, is the second largest in the U.S., following closely behind by New York City, with roughly 600,000 students, the district’s website says. The looming strike would mean that the more than 1,000 schools in the district would close Tuesday through Thursday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The district and the union have been negotiating over a slew of improvements for workers since April 2022, including seeking 30% raises, an increase in full-time work hours, the right to file complaints about harassment or mistreatment, and additional staffing, Service Employees International Union Local 99 said in a contract summary laying out their demands.
This strike would be the first since 2019, when workers went on strike for six days after 20 months of negotiations. Schools remained open at that time, but it was the first strike in more than three decades, earning the backing of many Democrats inside and outside of the city.
The union organized the strike after 96% of the workers approved it, the SEIU said in a Wednesday press release.
“I’m ready to strike for the respect we deserve,” Janette Verbera, an LAUSD special education assistant, said in the press release. “I am a single mother and for the past 20 years, I have worked two and sometimes three jobs just to support my family. I’m exhausted and not just because I’m physically tired, it is debilitating to do a job day-in-and-day-out that I passionately love and be at a salary below the poverty wage level. How do we properly service our students when we are being overworked and underpaid and disrespected?”
United Teachers Los Angeles, another union in the district, is also planning to strike in solidarity with SEIU, bringing the total number of striking workers to about 65,000.
“We won’t let anyone tell us that the historic level of resources can’t be used to make our lives better, our students’ lives better, and our communities stronger,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a Wednesday press release. “In a school district where 86% of students live in poverty and staff salaries aren’t nearly enough to pay rent or sometimes even put food on the table, we are proud to stand alongside the members of SEIU Local 99 as we demand an end to the hoarding of resources and call on LAUSD to make the investments today necessary to secure our success tomorrow.”
“I want to personally apologize to our families and our students,” LAUSD Supt. Alberto Carvalho tweeted on Wednesday. “You deserve better. Know that we are doing everything possible to avoid a strike.”
LAUSD declined to provide additional comment. UTLA and SEIU also declined to provide HuffPost with additional comment.