LOS ANGELES — A massive three-day strike planned by the majority of Los Angeles public school employees — bus drivers, teachers, custodians and others — kicked off early Tuesday, with picketers marching through the dark, rainy morning.
Hundreds of school employees, many among the lowest-paid, joined the picket line before 5 a.m. at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Van Nuys bus yard, marching in ponchos and balancing signs with their umbrellas.
Employees shouted, “Whose house? Our house!” according to a tweet from the union, and held signs that read the “Last straw” and “We demand respect!”
Other strikers have taken to the picket line at many school sites throughout the sprawling district.
Last-minute efforts Monday failed to avoid the strike that shut down Los Angeles public schools, disrupting learning, vital meal services and the daily lives of some 420,000 children and their families in the nation’s second-largest school system.
There had been hope of averting the walkout based on informal conversations over the weekend and mediation that resumed Monday between the school district and the union that is leading the strike, Local 99 of Service Employees International Union.
The union represents some of the district’s lowest-paid workers, including bus drivers, teacher aides, special education assistants, security aides, custodians and food-service workers. The union is demanding a 30% salary increase, plus $2 more per hour for the lowest-paid workers.
By Saturday, the offer from the district, according to its leaders, was a cumulative 23% raise, starting with 2% retroactive as of the 2020-21 school year and ending with 5% in 2024-25. The package would also include a one-time 3% bonus for those who have worked since 2020-21, along with expanded hours, more full-time positions and improved eligibility for health care.
United Teachers Los Angeles — which represents teachers, nurses, therapists, counselors and librarians — has urged its members to go on strike in support of Local 99.
Union Executive Director Max Arias said a primary goal of Local 99 has been to raise the average annual wage of members from $25,000 to $36,000.