California school union workers hold three-day strike
LOS ANGELES, Calif. (CNN, KYMA/KECY) - Workers for Los Angeles County Schools are set to hold a three-day strike this week. The district's superintendent says the strike could make it "virtually impossible to keep schools open."
A union representing thousands of Los Angeles school cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and teachers’ assistants say they plan to walk out after nearly a year of negotiations over better pay and working conditions.
The signs Jose Tovar made will be used Tuesday when a 3 day strike is expected to force school closures in the second largest district in the nation.
"We're not asking for the world, but just, you know, to live above water," Tovar spoke.
Tovar, a custodian with a full time job at an early education center, says he makes about $25,000 a year.
"I love my job, especially I deal with a lot of five year olds, four year old kids and make sure you keep it clean for them. But sometimes you don't feel appreciated, respect," Tovar added.
And respect is what his union says this strike is about. While asking for more money, some members have reported harassment for doing so.
"Some have been harassed to the point where they've lost their job, they've lost income or they generally just, just get, some are intimidated," said Max Arias, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99.
SEIU Local 99 is a union representing thousands of cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and other school workers, but the teacher’s union also joining the strike in solidarity.
LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho is hopeful that the two sides will come to a monetary agreement and says harassment claims are being reviewed.
"We have not been presented with compelling evidence that there's widespread abuses. Are there issues? Yes. Each one of them is vigorously investigated and consequences are applied on the basis of merit of the allegation," Carvalho spoke.
The union says avoiding a strike is unlikely. Instead, they want to shine a light on minorities and low income workers who keep the schools running. They also see this as a wakeup call for other districts in the U.S. to fund education.
"Elected officials throughout the country, federal and state should see what's going on here and think this is happening in just about every district in this country," Arias added.
Higher salaries = Better schools and education
The superintendent also believes that when they come to an agreement, the rest of the nation will use it as an example.
"I believe that it will be precedent setting for the country and I will take pride in it as will the union for these are some of the lowest wage earners in our community," Carvalho expressed.
Both sides worry about the students who may suffer greatly from school closures.
"Once you're forced to shut down the school, you eliminate some of the protections and rights that children have the right to food, the right to health, the right to social emotional support, the right to mental support, the right to have their disabilities addressed in an adequate way," Carvalho added.
But the union believes people like Jose Tovar need to make more money.
"It's a struggle. It's hard, you know. Sometimes, like, I'm thinking to myself, Lord, I'm gonna make it another day like this," Tovar described.
Because in the end, they say higher salaries for school workers will lead to better schools and better education.