Workers in the nation’s second largest school district walked out Tuesday, even as district authorities allege the union isn’t negotiating.
“I believe this strike could have been avoided,” said Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, the AP reports. “But it cannot be avoided without individuals actually speaking to one another.”
The union has accused the district of “misconduct,” alleging it was prevented by the district from engaging “in legally protected union-related activities.”
The pre-planned strike is set to last three days, after members of SEIU Local 99 voted to authorize the shutdown when negotiations ground to a halt, said Fox News.
The union represents custodial workers, cafeteria workers and other non-teachers. The teachers are represented by a different union, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).
The UTLA is also striking in sympathy with the SEIU strike.
“There’s not even anybody applying because you can make more money starting at Burger King,” instructional aide Marlee Ostrow told the AP about staff shortages and low pay at the schools. “A lot of people really want to help kids, and they shouldn’t be penalized for wanting that to be their life’s work.”
The union says that the average non-teacher education worker makes about $25,000, often working part time.
By contrast, a first year teacher in the city earns $48,916, which rises to $61,557 after ten years, reported the Los Angeles Times.
SEIU claims that inflation has further eroded worker pay.
However, Bloomberg reports that while workers in most cities have seen inflation erode wages, workers in Los Angeles have bucked the trend.
The SEIU is seeking a 30% pay increase, while teachers are looking for a 20% raise.
Carvalho said that if the district agrees to the pay hikes, it simply means that staff layoffs will necessarily follow to make up for the budget shortfall, according to the Times.
Instead, the district has countered with a 20% pay increase for SEIU staff and a 3% bonus, as well as what Carvalho calls a “massive expansion of healthcare benefits,” said the AP.
The strike appears to be another symptom of a public education system in crisis nationwide.
The UTLA reported that 70% of local area teachers are thinking about quitting the profession.