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LA schools strike enters third day as bargaining resumes

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(LOS ANGELES) — More than 30,000 picketing Los Angeles school service employees are expected to return to work on Friday after a planned three-day strike prompted the city’s mayor to intervene and jumpstart labor negotiations.

The job walkout by the Service Employees International Union Local 99 — which includes bus drivers, cafeteria workers and special education assistants — began on Tuesday, forcing the Los Angeles Unified School District to cancel classes for 420,000 students for three straight days.

“SEIU Local 99 school workers plan to return to schools Friday, March 24,” the union said in a statement.

While no contract settlement has been reached, both sides have returned to the bargaining table at the urging of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass. No specifics on the negotiations were made public.

Bass’ office released a statement saying the mayor “will continue to work privately with all parties to reach an agreement to reopen the schools and guarantee fair treatment of all LAUSD workers.”

Max Arias, president of SEIU Local 99, issued a statement Wednesday evening welcoming Bass’ involvement in the negotiations.

“We are grateful that the mayor has stepped in to provide leadership in an effort to find a path out of our current impasse,” Arias said. “Education workers have always been eager to negotiate as long as we are treated with respect and bargained with fairly, and with the mayor’s leadership we believe that is possible.”

School district officials also released a statement, saying, they “have been in conversation with SEIU Local 99 leaders with the assistance and support of Mayor Bass.”

“We continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement that honors the hard work of our employees, corrects historic inequities, maintains the financial stability of the district and brings students back to the classroom,” the LAUSD’s statement reads. “We are hopeful these talks continue and look forward to updating our school community on a resolution.”

The striking service employees, backed by the powerful United Teachers Los Angeles union, began the final day of the strike by gathering at the school district’s bus yard. The workers are planning to hold a large rally later Thursday at the Los Angeles State Historic Park in downtown Los Angeles with plans for a “unified call for LAUSD to bargain fairly,” according to a statement from the union.

This week’s labor action is the first major work stoppage for the nation’s second largest school district since a 2019 strike by the 35,000 members of the United Teachers Los Angeles union.

The service employees have been working without a contract since June 2020. In December 2022, the union declared an impasse in negotiations, prompting the appointment of a state mediator.

The service workers’ union said many of its members earn “poverty wages” of $25,000 per year and are demanding a 30% pay hike, with an additional pay increase for the lowest-paid workers.

The school district’s most recent offer calls for a 23% wage increase, along with a 3% “cash-in-hand bonus.”

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