By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
While SEIU Local 99 and Los Angeles Unified School District were unable to reach an agreement on negotiations, all campuses in the district—including charter schools in Pacific Palisades—were slated to be closed for up to three days starting Tuesday, March 21, through Thursday, March 23.
Campuses that were closed include Marquez Charter Elementary, Palisades Charter Elementary, Canyon Charter Elementary and Paul Revere Charter Middle schools. Palisades Charter High School remained open, as the school was not impacted by the strike.
The strike is being led by SEIU Local 99, which is the union that represents 50,000 education workers—including cafeteria workers, special education assistants, custodians and bus drivers—in K-12 schools, early education centers and homes, and community colleges throughout Southern California, “over unfair labor practices,” according to a statement released by the organization.
Marquez Principal Dr. LaTanya Reeves shared background information about the strike, as well as resources for continuity of learning, on a video shared on the school’s website.
“SEIU Local 99 has announced its intention to hold a three-day strike from Tuesday, March 21, through Thursday, March 23,” according to the video. “Additionally, our labor partner, UTLA, has advised teachers to support the strike by not reporting to work on those days.”
School staff who were on campus during the strike were anticipated to hold virtual office hours to assist students with assignments, while offices were to remain open to address “parent questions and concerns”—though hours would depend on staffing levels.
“This afternoon, SEIU Local 99 had agreed to enter a confidential mediation process with LAUSD to try and address our differences,” SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias shared in a statement Monday, March 20. “Unfortunately, LAUSD broke that confidentiality by sharing it with the media before our bargaining team, which makes all decisions, had a chance to discuss how to proceed. This is yet another example of the school district’s continued disrespect of school workers. We are ready to strike.”
SEIU Local 99 school workers voted “overwhelmingly”—96% in favor, according to the statement—to authorize a strike last month. Some of the things the union has proposed include “equity for education workers,” “clean and safe learning environments for all,” and “increased academic support for students and assistance for families.” The list of demands includes a 30% wage increase and $2 an hour “equity wage adjustment for all.”
“Despite our invitation for a transparent, honest conversation that perhaps would result in a meaningful solution that would avoid a strike, we must formally announce that all schools across LAUSD would be closed to students tomorrow,” LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wrote in a statement on Monday, March 20. “We continue to be available to have a conversation tonight, early morning and all throughout the day tomorrow.”
UTLA—United Teachers Los Angeles—the union that represents public school educators in Los Angeles, joined the strike in solidarity with SEIU Local 99.
“UTLA will strike in solidarity, and UTLA’s elected leaders are encouraging all 35,000 UTLA educators to join SEIU 99 in a solidarity strike,” according to its website. “SEIU 99 members have been working under a contract that expired in 2021 and are among the lowest paid employees in LAUSD—$25,000 a year on average.”
As rain fell on Tuesday, staff members and teachers gathered in-person to strike at Marquez and Canyon campuses starting as early as 6:30 a.m. Picket lines were expected to be set up each morning of the strike at schools and worksites, including bus yards, procurement and the Newman Nutrition Center. A rally also took place the first day of the strike at LAUSD Headquarters.
LAUSD hosted 24 Grab & Go sites throughout the city at local parks and recreation centers to “distribute students’ meals to families,” with three days’ worth of meals provided, according to Carvalho. Select elementary, middle and high schools also offered student supervision.