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Strike by teachers, staff shuts down second largest school district in US

Members of UTLA (United Teachers Los Angeles) support members of SEIU 99 (Service Employees International Union) at a solidarity rally in Los Angeles.

School workers in the US city of Los Angeles have launched a three-day strike to demand pay rises and better working conditions, shutting down classes in the nation's second largest school district.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99, a union representing 30,000 school custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and other support staff, announced that the strike began on Tuesday, after nearly a year of talks with the Los Angeles Unified School District failed.

The union wants “equitable wage increases, more full-time work, respectful treatment, and increased staffing levels for improved student services,” it said.

The United Teachers Los Angeles,  a union representing nearly 30,000 instructors, announced that the teachers will join the walkout in solidarity with their colleagues.

The industrial action will cancel classes in the nation's second largest school district, affecting more than a half million students.

Announcing the closure of schools, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said the school district has tried to negotiate in good faith, and made a generous and historic proposal.

“We believe that a strike is avoidable and should be avoided, considering the consequences that would have in our community,” he said. 

The district was shut down by a six-day strike in 2019, when the teachers union demanded smaller class sizes, more school staffing and higher wages.

It followed a wave of strikes across the United States, spurred by dismal school conditions and teachers working several jobs to pay their bills.

Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said the strike might be the only way to force change.

“If the district doesn’t realize that our members are valuable… once they stop working, then nothing’s really gonna [going to] change,” he said.

“Ultimately, what we’re seeking is improving the schools – equity in schools. That’s what we’re seeking.”

The strikers demand a 30% pay raise and $2 per hour equity wage increase.

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