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The Strike is Over: The LAUSD Meets Union’s Demand of 30% Pay Raise and Fully Paid Health Benefits

6:19 PM PDT on March 24, 2023

lausd strike Photo by Lexis-Olivier Ray for L.A. TACO.

The union representing 30,000 Los Angeles Unified School District service workers who just concluded a three-day strike that shuttered the nation's second-largest school system has reached a tentative labor contract with the district, officials announced today. The tentative pact still needs the approval of Service Employees International Union Local 99 members and the LAUSD board. The deal effectively meets the union's demand for a 30% pay raise and also includes bonus payments, retroactive pay, and fully paid health benefits.

In a statement, the district stated that the agreement "addresses historic pay inequities and creates a massive expansion of healthcare benefits for part-time employees and invests considerable resources into professional development for the workforce, all while maintaining financial stability for the district."

The deal was brokered in part with the assistance of Mayor Karen Bass, who announced the deal at a late afternoon news conference at City Hall alongside LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias. "We must all come together to support public schools, which are the most powerful determinate of our city's future," Bass said. "So I'm grateful that we were able to find an agreement today...I'm hopeful that this is the beginning of a new relationship that will lead to a stronger legacy of their future workers and students in the years ahead. I want to lock arms with them because the root causes of what's going on here are much larger than LAUSD budget -- how we shape our lives and how we treat our workers in Los Angeles is of concern to all of us, especially the three of us."

According to the SEIU, the 30% wage hike will increase the average salary of union members from $25,000 a year to $33,000. The proposed deal also includes a $1,000 bonus for all members who were with the district in the 2020-21 school year. According to Carvalho, the deal includes a 6% ongoing wage increase retroactive to July 2021, a 7% wage increase retroactive to July 2022, and a $2 per hour increase for all employees effective Jan. 1, 2024. The district noted that the proposal would bring the LAUSD's minimum wage to $22.52 an hour, ahead of the state and the city of Los Angeles.

It would also provide health benefits for part-time employees who work four or more hours per day, including dependent coverage. It also calls for increased hours and pay for paraprofessionals who work with special-needs students and invests $3 million in an Education and Professional Development Fund for SEIU members. Carvalho repeatedly referred to the tentative contract as "historic,'' noting that in recent years, most negotiated contracts resulted in wage increases of 2.5% to 3%.

"This is a multi-year agreement the likes of which has never been negotiated in this district, the likes of which has never been negotiated across the state or across the county,'" he said.  "I can confidently say that." He added, "I have no doubt that this contract will be seen as a precedent-setting that elevates the humanity of our workforce, respects the needs of our students, but also guarantees the fiscal viability of our district for years.''

Arias thanked Bass for assisting in the negotiations and thanked Carvalho for working to find a solution. "We really hope and look forward that there can be a relationship that we can have as SEIU Local 99 with the district,'' he said. But the relationship is not necessarily with me or the staff of the local, it has to be with the workers that lead the action that actually exposed to everyone in the public the conditions in the schools and the conditions that workers have to go
through to educate the children.'

The tentative labor pact was announced on the day that more than 400,000 LAUSD students returned to school following the SEIU's three-day strike, which was joined in solidarity by the roughly 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district's teachers. SEIU Local 99 represents workers including cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants, and others. The union had been pushing for a 30% wage increase, along with additional boosts for the lowest-paid workers. Carvalho said Monday the district's most recent offer had been for a roughly 23% boost, along with a 3% cash-in-hand bonus.

The district and the union both exchanged accusations of unfair bargaining, with the district filing papers with the state accusing the union
of engaging in an illegal strike. The union filed allegations of unfair labor practices, saying union members were subjected to harassment and intimidation tactics by the district.

SEIU members went on strike Tuesday, and during the walkout, Bass said she was working behind the scenes to get the sides talking again. Her involvement mirrored the efforts of her predecessor, Eric Garcetti, who helped broker an end to a 2019 strike by UTLA that went on for six days. It was not immediately clear when the SEIU Local 99 membership would begin voting on the proposed deal. The tentative deal resolves a major labor headache for the district, but another one lies ahead. UTLA is involved in labor negotiations with the district as well, and the powerful teachers union is seeking a 20% raise for all of its members. The success of SEIU in winning its contract demands could add fuel to the UTLA's negotiating position.

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