SEIU Local 99 announces intentions to hold strike authorization vote amid negotiations with Los Angeles Unified

The union representing custodians, cafeteria workers, special education assistants and other essential employees in the Los Angeles Unified School District has announced plans to hold a strike authorization vote in January. SEIU Local 99, which represents nearly 30,000 workers, is pushing for a wage increase, expanded health care benefits and sufficient staffing and resources to keep schools clean. 

The union has been negotiating its contract with the district since 2020— the year its contract expired — though negotiations were halted for a period amid the pandemic’s peak. According to its executive director Max Arias, this round of negotiations has differed from previous ones because the district has been unwilling to engage with the proposals.

“Students cannot wait for clean safe and supportive schools; your families cannot wait for living wages and health care and basic respect,” Arias shouted to a rally gathered Tuesday in front of LAUSD headquarters. “We won’t wait anymore. We don’t want any more empty promises.”

The union is still in its initial steps as it looks toward a possible strike. It has yet to declare an impasse, an important step in the process before stopping work. But if a strike authorization vote passes, it can start the process for the union to move forward with one, providing an important possible pressure point.

LAUSD said the district is continuing to negotiate with the union.

“We are committed to compensating our employees fairly in this current economic environment, while also preserving our ability to provide services to our students in a sustainable manner that promotes lasting student achievement,” the district wrote in a statement.

SEIU Local 99 member Kelly Rodriguez, who works as an early education assistant at Toluca Lake Early Education Center, said it’s been difficult to watch the negotiations stall. She said it’s caused her and other members to feel disrespected by the district.

“You start to look at the things that you never looked at before,” Rodriguez said. “Now I’m looking at my dollar amount. Well, is it really worth me doing this? I used to come into this job and love what I did. But man, I’m getting treated like this.”

Kate Sequeira, Ed Source, Dec 14, 2022