SEIU and UTLA Engage in Three Day Strike, closing down Taft

UTLA teachers and SEIU staff rally outside LA Cityhall in support of SEIU’ s contract negotiation.

On Wednesday, the 15th of March, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 (SEIU Local 99) as well as supporters of their protest, including members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), rallied in downtown LA and announced a 3 day strike from the 21st through the 23rd of March, shutting down schools unless a deal is reached with the district.

SEIU is a union of support workers in LAUSD including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and many other employees who keep the district running. They rallied on Wednesday to demand “improved wages, full-time work, and increased staffing levels for student services,” according to their press release.

Negotiations with the district have stalled since December, and even after a state mediator was brought in, SEIU states that no real progress has been made. The district has resisted the demands of the union, and SEIU has alleged that they have done so by unfair and illegal means. “Some workers have even faced retaliation for speaking out to their co-workers about their rights,” states their website, continuing “SEIU Local 99 has filed unfair practice charges.”

The district, however, says that they have been more than reasonable with the union. Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho has stated, “SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate.” He claims that, “With a historic offer on the table that was created in direct response to SEIU’s demands, and with additional resources still to be negotiated, it is deeply surprising and disappointing that there is an unwillingness to do so.”

While many students are excited about the prospect of time off school, many have concerns about what it will mean for their academics. The SAT test at Taft CHS has already been moved in response to the strike, and it is likely many other academic activities will be disrupted.

Many teachers, however, are in full support of the strike and UTLA has already declared they will honor the strike.

LAUSD has challenged the legality of SEIU’s strike, but in a Sunday ruling the court decided against the initial challenge. While SEIU celebrated the ruling, with the executive director of SEIU stating, “The California Public Employment Relations Board has rejected LAUSD’s last-ditch and meritless effort to request an injunction.”

LAUSD, however, claims that the decision is not final. In an official statement, LAUSD asserted “Contrary to SEIU’s assertions, the PERB OGC has not made a decision on Los Angeles Unified’s unfair practice charge regarding the alleged illegality of SEIU’s strike…” LAUSD was awaiting a second ruling on the case slated to come into effect on the morning of March 20th, however, that ruling did not avert Tuesday’s actions.

In the event of a strike occurring, while schools will be shut down, the district has stated that many services will still be available to students in need. Including access to libraries and meals for students qualifying.

Whatever the result of the situation, this strike marks a landmark in the struggle between district workers and LAUSD, and an important development in our school and community.