More than half a million students in Los Angeles schools for the second day can not go to class due to the strike of educational institutions. In total, there are just over a thousand schools in the district, one of the largest in the country. The main demand of the strikers is an increase in wages. The teachers’ union and the school district have yet to reach an agreement. The strikers staged a rally of several thousand people at the school district’s main office. Among those who came to the protest, Jennifer Thores – for 20 years she has worked as a teaching assistant in an elementary school. She says the strike was a difficult decision for her personally.
“We don’t want to go on strike, we don’t want to close the schools, because all of this will affect the children. And the decision was as difficult as living in poverty. Living paycheck to paycheck,” says Jennifer.
Los Angeles school district employees, including bus drivers, security guards, teacher’s aides, cafeteria workers, more than 30,000 people are demanding a 30% increase in wages and overtime.
“Living with such a salary is very difficult, if I tell you how much I get, you will laugh. How can I pay my rent, how can I help my children with this kind of money,” says an assistant primary school teacher, Luz Variela.
She has worked with children for 25 years, she says, to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world, she must constantly seek additional income. It is precisely because of low salaries, they are sure within the teachers’ union, that fewer and fewer young people are choosing the teaching profession.
“The employees of the school system receive about $25,000 a year, which is negligible. Some employees have to pay 85% of their $2,000 salary for housing alone, and what’s left? When do you have a family? How to feed her? said Cecilia Maya Cruz, president of the teachers’ union. According to her, the school district is rejecting the request for a salary increase, offering its own terms. The negotiations lasted more than a month. The day before, they had come to an impasse.
“The district chief knows how to negotiate very well, he got himself a 26% raise, his annual salary is 440 thousand dollars, which is more than the salary of the President of the United States!” To us, he’s saying the county can’t give more money,” Cecilia Cruz, president of the Los Angeles teachers’ union, told media.
School district head Alberto Carvalho says union representatives don’t even want to listen to him. And they don’t come to talk.
“I was hoping to be able to come to you today and give you further news that there will be no strike. But unfortunately that is not the case. We have been engaged in the negotiation process all this time. But we couldn’t even get together with the unions in the same room, at the same table, to solve these problems,” says Carvalho.
Teachers have also come to support school workers, around 30,000 teachers are also demanding a 20% salary increase.
“Without all these people, our students could not study, without assistants, cooks, drivers, nothing would have happened, they deserve a decent salary”, says teacher Victoria Montes.
A total of 65,000 employees of the school education system are taking part in the strike. During the strike, Los Angeles authorities opened points in 30 city parks where volunteers can care for the children of working parents.
“I support the strike on the one hand, and on the other hand, my daughter is today without school. People depend on schools, even for food,” says Lorena. She came every day to bring the food that her children received at school. In city schools, students can eat for free. For some families, this food program is a big help. In order not to deprive his parents and his children, the authorities of Los Angeles have organized points where one can obtain food parcels for the children for all the days of the strike.
In 2019, Los Angeles school workers also went on strike, when they demanded fewer students in classrooms, medical workers for each school, and higher wages. This strike lasted six days, but the schools then continued to operate. The current strike is scheduled for three days, but school workers say that if the district does not make concessions, they will continue to strike.
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