Los Angeles unified school district workers have approved a labor deal after a three-day strike last month over wages and staffing that halted education for students in one of the nation’s largest school systems.
The agreement, which was voted on this week, would increase wages by 30% for workers who are paid an average of $25,000 a year, the Local 99 chapter of the Service Employees International Union – or SEIU – said on Saturday. It also includes a $1,000 bonus for employees who worked during the Covid-19 pandemic and expanded family healthcare benefits.
The contract still needs to be approved by the governing board of the nation’s second-largest school system. The school district said the board could take it up for a vote at a meeting on 18 April.
Thousands of workers backed by teachers went on strike last month and rallied outside the school district’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles amid stalled contract talks. The goal was to demand better pay and increased staffing for the bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teacher’s aides and other employees represented by the union.
The Los Angeles mayor, Karen Bass, thanked the school district and union for coming to an agreement in late March after the strike.
“We must continue working together to address our city’s high cost of living, to grow opportunity and to support more funding for LA’s public schools, which are the most powerful determinant of our city’s future,” the Democrat said in a statement.
The SEIU said many district support staffers live in poverty because of low pay or limited work hours while struggling with inflation and the high cost of housing in Los Angeles county.
The school district serves more than half a million students in the area, an enrollment size that is second only to the New York City public school system.
SEIU executive director Max Arias touted the deal as “a major step” to improve pay, hours and benefits for workers who “have been left behind for far too long”.
“This contract recognizes the essential work of those who work hard to ensure students can learn in a clean, safe, and supportive environment,” Arias said in a statement.
At the time of the strike, the district superintendent, Alberto M Carvalho, had accused the union of refusing to negotiate.
Last month’s strike came years after educator activism surged across the country, from Oklahoma to Chicago to Los Angeles itself, as teachers took more aggressive labor action to compel districts to improve working conditions during contract negotiations. In 2019, tens of thousands of teachers walked out of Los Angeles schools for six days and demanded higher wages, smaller class sizes and more support staff.
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