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Los Angeles school support staff at an impasse in higher pay talks

Cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other school support staff employees say the district isn't meeting their requests.
Posted at 9:21 PM, Mar 22, 2023

On the rain-soaked streets of America's second-largest school district, school support staff are dancing their way to higher wages.

"We're dancing on the picket lines because we all deserve to live full lives and have good working conditions so that we can support and teach our students," some said. 

"We are not just bodies in the classroom," said Jennifer Torres, a special education assistant at Los Angeles Unified School District.

Thousands of support staff, from bus drivers to cafeteria workers and teachers aides, are demanding a 30% wage increase from Los Angeles Unified School District. They say the money would help lift many of them out of poverty.

"Respect us," Torres said. "Once the school district acknowledges and respects what special education assistants and other school employees do in the classroom and in our schools, they'll understand our fight."

A crowd at a rally for the Los Angeles Unified School District and Service Employees International Union 99 (SEIU

Los Angeles schools shut down as staff begin 3-day strike

Demonstrations began Tuesday by members of Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 support staffers.


The union representing the workers says a majority of their members make $25,000 a year. That's less than poverty level for a four-person household in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive cities in the country.

The union says it's at an impasse with the district.

"Of course if the superintendent comes with the demands that the workers are urging, then we will move forward," said Blanca Gallegos, spokesperson for SEIU Local 99.

District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says the district's existing offer addressed the concerns of the union while "keeping the district in a financially stable position." But the union says their concerns are not met, and the teachers striking with them in solidarity agree.

"This has to stop. We need to bring these people up to a livable wage, livable conditions and really make our schools the fantastic place they have the potential to be," said Scott Mandel, a teacher and representative for United Teachers Los Angeles.