By Luis Diaz
Union workers of the Los Angeles Unified School District reached a historic deal after a three-day strike that shut down all Los Angeles public schools.
On March 21, Union workers of Service Employees International Union Local 99 initiated a strike with the help of teachers to demand a raise.
SEIU Local 99 represents 30,000 teachers’ aides, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff.
Union workers asked for a 30 percent wage increase and better working conditions.
This strike put around 400,000 students out of classes for three days, many parents and locals around communities supporing the cause.
At Miramonte Elementary School in South Central, staff and teachers gathered at the school. From Bob Marley’s ‘Fight the Power’ playing in the background, chants were being heard along the streets.
“What do we want? Fair contracts. And when do we want them? Right now.”
Faculty members at Miramonte Elementary School expressed their frustration about how workers have been treated recently.
“The higher power doesn’t care about our work conditions, and they don’t care about us and put pressure on us.”
The school administration has been getting frustrated with them for not being able to get all the tasks done on time.
Employees are already understaffed and have vacant positions because of the pay for the amount of hard labor needed to be done.
Locals around the area showed their support by honking their horns and walking along the faculty members and teachers.
The average salary for LAUSD classified employees is $25,000.
“Parents being able to send our children to class affects us, but we understand that the strike is necessary because they are essential to the schools like teachers as well,” said Sarah Mendoza.
“LAUSD superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho roughly makes around $440,000 a year, more than the President of the United States and he can’t give a raise to the most essential people that help build the future of this nation,” William Mejia said.
Many local schools around the Florence-Firestone area united together on the corner of Florence and Hooper to protest and bring awareness to the community.
Russell Elementary School teachers expressed their concerns about not being able to prepare the new generation for higher education.
2017 teacher of the year Misit Kemmer expressed her concerns about the issues in the districts.
“Students are over-tested. We fought for more nurses and support staff. From a teacher’s point of view, we are still waiting for that change.
“To find out that staff are only getting paid $25,000 a year is ridiculous. You can’t even live on a salary like that,” said Kemmer.
With a salary like that many of the staff can’t even live in Los Angeles, especially with inflation getting worse.
“We can’t even function without them. That’s why we are out here,” said Kemmer.
The situation got worse after COVID-19, with many vacant spots unfilled due to the labor wanted, versus the pay offered.
“We have so many positions open, positions that can’t be filled but at the same time if you can’t fill those positions, make sure you pay them accordingly.”
Alfredo Farias, a teacher assistant at Russell Elementary School, explained the struggles he faced being understaffed.
“What we face here is how short staffed we are. I put in extra hours and extra work and never fully compensated.
“I see other T.A.’s running around chasing kids, getting hurt and the pay ultimately isn’t worth it. You can go to Burger King and make more flipping burgers,” said Farias.
The protest ended at the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
SEIU Local 99 reached a deal with the help of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
The agreement addresses the historical pay inequities, creates a massive expansion of healthcare benefits for part-time employees, and invests considerable resources for the workforce.
The minimum wage will increase to $22.52 an hour. All the current employees who were in the district 2020-21 year school year will receive a $1,000 bonus and many more benefits.