A labor strike of school bus drivers and other school support personnel began after the California Public Employment Relations Board rejected a claim by the state’s largest school district that the move was unlawful. All school buses will be grounded Tuesday through Thursday.
“LAUSD’s last-minute filing of charges against SEIU Local 99 is yet another attempt by the school district to intimidate and silence the voices of workers, who are simply speaking out to improve their livelihoods and the student services they provide,” according to a release sent to School Transportation News on Saturday.
SEIU Local 99, which represents bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodial staff and special education assistants employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced last Wednesday that its members intend to walk off the job March 21-23 because it said Los Angeles Unified School District is engaged in “unfair practices” related to low wages that are leading to staff shortages. The union said negotiations reached an impasse, and 96 percent of its members voted to strike, what would be the second in the past four years.
The United Teachers Association is backing the walkout. As a result, the district said it had likely to cancel classes, both in-person and virtually.
According to another press release issued by Local 99 last week, the average salary of LAUSD school workers is $25,000 a year, with most employees only working part-time. As a result, recruiting new staff members has proven difficult, the union added.
In response, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho commented last Wednesday that it is “surprising and disappointing” that Local 99 is moving forward with a strike, despite “a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU’s demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated … ,” and at the detriment of the students because classes can’t be held without teachers and school buses, at least those operated by the district, can’t roll.
Last year, LAUSD offered the unionized workers a 5-percent ongoing wage increase and a one-time bonus of 4 percent for the current school year plus a 5-percent ongoing wage increase and one-time, 5-percent bonus for the 2023-2024 school year. The school district also seeks to set a new starting minimum wage of at least $20 an hour and an equity adjustment for anyone making less than $30 an hour in certain work groups.
Carvalho noted the latest offer is a 15-percent increase over time and 10-percent cash in-hand plus increasing the minimum number of hours and extending health care benefits to part-time employees. But, he said, Local 99 had yet to respond.
Local 99 claims that LAUSD’s latest offer came simultaneously as it filed charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board. “Members of our bargaining team had not even had time to review it or consult with other members before the district shared it publicly with the media. We will not negotiate publicly,” the union added.
The union continued that LAUSD “does not seem to be acting in good faith.”
School bus drivers and other Local 99 members began picketing at 4 a.m. in the rain on Tuesday morning before holding a press conference and rally at district headquarters. The picket line will move to other school bus facilities on Wednesday and Thursday before holding press conferences and rallies each day.
Related: School Bus Drivers Strike in Southern California
Related: Los Angeles Unified is Considering Adding Electric School Buses
Related: Los Angeles Unified Board of Education Unanimously OKs Contract with UTLA
Related: EXPO General Session to Share Student Transportation Perspectives of Los Angeles, Las Vegas