Next week, a union representing 30,000 school support staff in the Los Angeles Unified School District will stage a day-long strike for better treatment in the workplace.
Despite a year of back-and-forth negotiations between the district and the Service Employees International Union’s Local 99 affiliate, no official contract has been brokered for the tens of thousands of teacher assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, school nurses, and special education assistants working in the district.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the district has proposed cutting workers’ hours by an hour a week without notifying union representatives, and that district officials are interfering with strike votes and preventing the union from forming a safety committee to investigate accidents at the workplace. In a recent vote, 94 percent of the union’s 11,000 members who participated elected to move forward with a strike for unfair labor practices.
While next Wednesday’s walkout is only scheduled for one day, Local 99 officials say they intend to send a message to the district that its members are committed to fighting for fairness in the workplace.
“We are going to engage in a 24-hour strike May 15 to demand an end to these unfair practices and that the district respect our rights. Our members want it to stop,” Local 99 spokesman Max Arias told the Times.
However, a spokesman for the L.A. Unified School District told reporters that the union’s allegations were out of context. In regard to the accusation of interfering with a strike vote, district labor relations director Najeeb Khoury told reporters that the “interference” was a principal asking a teacher to remove a flyer about the strike vote from a bulletin board on school campus. Khoury added that the union’s assertion that the district was preventing them from forming a safety committee stemmed from the district’s point of view that a union employee representing a worker shouldn’t also sit on a committee investigating workplace accidents.
The upcoming walkout in Los Angeles will also come on the same week as a thousands-strong march on the North Carolina General Assembly, in which at approximately 8,000 educators are calling for an increase in both teacher pay and K-12 education funding.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.