SEIU plans to hold a three-day strike in search of higher wages


Grant Asner

Workers in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and their supporters unite on March 15 for a rally at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles, where a three-day strike for SEIU members was announced.

By Satenik Ayrapetyan and Elizabeth Rose

With neither side seemingly willing to budge, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 leaders, which include cafeteria workers, bus drivers and janitorial workers, will be striking for three days from March 21 to the 23rd.

“It seems like the right thing to do under the circumstances,” said Cathy Reichman, a food service worker at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS). “I think the union is asking for things that are not unreasonable and it seems like it would be beneficial (for service employees).”

As Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials scramble in an attempt to prevent the three-day strike that was announced at the Grand Park rally on March 15, teachers are planning to support their coworkers by not crossing the picket lines on those three days. Unlike during the 6-day teachers strike in January 2019, schools will be completely shut down for instruction due to lack of supervision of students on campus.

“All workers are fighting for the same thing,” United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) Chapter Chair and chemistry teacher Timothy Hughes said. “Dignity, respect. The ability to live in the city and the ability to be excellent workers for our students.”

Hughes added that the solidarity stand UTLA members are taking is an effort to improve the district overall. He said the district has not been meeting them halfway in efforts to negotiate and that in order for LAUSD workers to feel valued, they need to make their voices heard and prove they’re serious.

“(We want to) be equals,” said Martha Vargas, a school supervision aide at DPMHS. “(We want to have) benefits the same as other workers (like teachers).”

In an email Thursday night, LAUSD announced that the free SAT available to all students on March 24 will be moved to April 12 due to the strike. Open House, which was scheduled for Thursday night, has been postponed. The district is preparing homework packets for students to do during those three days and is opening some centers to provide food for students.

“It makes me kind of nervous,” junior Josiah Lands said. “I just want to make sure I can have a good grade and (the strike) happening in the middle of it seems a little inconvenient.”

Moreover, for many schools, especially those on the block schedule like DMPHS, the 10-week grade submission deadline is March 24. This means students will lose most of their last week to make up grades or retake tests.

“I think it’s a little bit of a disruption to the kids that need the late work turned in,” sophomore Shelby Flores said.

SEIU’s strike comes about as a result of multiple issues that range from bargaining to settling wage issues dating back to the 2020-2021 school year. The current demands of SEIU include a 30% wage increase and a higher bonus for those in low-income homes. Furthermore, they accuse LAUSD of illegal action during the ongoing debacle.

“If I (didn’t have my parent’s help) and had to live by myself, I wouldn’t be able to work here,” said Humberto Renderos, a paraprofessional at DPMHS. ”Or I would have to work two jobs, full-time jobs, in order to survive.”

While LAUSD denies any wrongdoing, they have also made their own offer as part of the negotiation process. The proposed LAUSD offer to SEIU employees includes a 5% wage increase each year through the 2021, 2022 and 2023 years, retroactively starting the increase from July 1 of each year. Not only this, but employees would be set to currently receive 4% bonus pay for this year and 5% for the next, but no more.

“We need to reach a resolution that honors the work of our dedicated employees,” Superintendent Albert M. Carvalho said in an official statement.

Staff Writer Alysa Basmadzhyan contributed to this report.

This story was originally published on The Pearl Post on March 17, 2023.