Massive LAUSD strike closes schools for 420,000 students


Teachers and support staff rally outside of LA’s Fairfax High School on a rainy first morning of the three-day strike. Photo by Caleigh Wells.

Unionized custodians, bus drivers, teachers’ aides and other school support staff walked off the job and onto rainy picket lines today, initiating the start of a three-day strike that’s shuttered more than 1,000 schools in the nation’s second-largest school district. 

SEIU Local 99, the union representing LAUSD school staff, were joined on the picket line by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 35,000 teachers.

Local 99 has demanded a 30% raise, plus $2 more per hour for their lowest-paid workers, more hours, and improved eligibility for health care benefits. Many school staff work part-time and the average worker makes about $25,000 per year, according to the union. 

Over the weekend, the district got closer to meeting those demands. Their last offer, sent March 18, featured a 23% raise over five years plus a one-time 3% bonus for those who have been on the job since the pandemic. The district also offered more full-time positions, and broader eligibility for health care, according to the district.

But the union didn’t take the deal. They accused the district of torpedoing the bargaining process.

Executive Director for SEIU Local 99 Max Arias said in a statement Monday that the district broke a confidentiality agreement by sharing information with the media about a last-ditch mediation effort. “This is yet another example of the school district's continued disrespect of school workers,” he wrote. “We are ready to strike.”

What do parents and students need to know? 

  • Student supervision will be provided at 154 elementary, middle and high schools from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the strike on a first-come first served basis. Also 18 LA County Recreation and Park sites are inviting students to join "Everybody Plays" free of charge from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the strike. Meals provided and the sites have sports, games and arts and crafts. 
  • In addition, 30 recreation centers with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks are offering free programming for elementary school students in first to fifth grades from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on strike days. Slots are first registered, first served. 
  • Learning resources for students – including on-demand tutoring and access to Schoology – are linked here.
  • For more information and updates, you can call LAUSD’s Family Hotline at (213) 443-1300 between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • There is no ongoing food distribution plan in the absence of school breakfast and lunches. Meals were handed out on Tuesday morning and no further distribution is planned.

Could the strike last longer than three days?

No. This strike is a protest of what SEIU Local 99 has alleged are unfair labor practices by the district. It is not an economic strike, which is the type of strike that can stretch out until the two parties come to an agreement.

But could there be more strikes after this one?

That is possible, but it would not happen immediately. Labor laws lay out a path for employers and employees to walk before declaring an economic strike. Those steps include bargaining, declaring impasse and fact-finding.

The district and Local 99 are in the fact-finding stage, which requires an intervention from the state’s Public Employment Relations Board, and can take a while. 

Carvalho said an additional strike by the school support staff union “would not be something that would necessarily happen automatically.”

But what about the UTLA, the teachers union? Could they strike? 

UTLA canceled their contract with the district earlier this month, and are currently negotiating a new one.

The union has demonstrated its willingness to strike before. In 2019, the last time they negotiated a contract, they walked off the job for six days, and now many of the members are participating in a solidarity strike with SEIU Local 99.

But Mallorie Evans, an audiologist in LAUSD and one of the teachers’ union’s bargaining members, says negotiations with the district are moving forward, and a strike isn’t currently on the table. 

“We are still very much in the bargaining phase,” she says. “We have not declared impasse… We're not ready to talk about anything to do with a strike or a strike authorization. We’re not there yet.”

A previous version of the audio story mischaracterized a statement by UCLA labor historian Tobias Higbie. The statement has been removed. We regret the error.