Los Angeles, CA – With chants of, “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union – fighting for justice, respect and fair wages,” 30,000 SEIU and UTLA teachers and service workers in Los Angeles went on strike from March 21 to March 23. Los Angeles Unified School District and SEIU’s contract expired in 2020, and, after three years of negotiations hitting dead ends, they decided to strike, and they are determined to win better wages, healthcare and staffing.
Even in the cold rain, they were out in full force with strikes at many of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools. Taking place from 6 a.m. until 10 a.m., the pouring rain didn’t stop workers from being out at the picket lines with chants and signs. There was high energy and good spirits from workers, and motorists showed support by honking.
On Tuesday, March 21 from noon until 3 p.m., the unions and community held a kick-off rally downtown, where speakers like Yolanda Reed, an SEIU 99 shop steward said, “It’s high time we stopped being disrespected. The intimidation must stop now. We, you, me are the union – and when we fight, we win.”
Thousands of SEIU and LAUSD workers filled the street with signs and chants of the demands they are determined to win. “Students are not the victims of the strike, we are in solidarity with it,” said one student. LAUSD parent Anna Dehan said, “Today is about respect. Respect is a living wage. For years, public schools exploited essential workers. That ends now.” The rally was a collective effort from not only the workers but from students and parents alike in a show of solidarity for a better future for the workers at LAUSD.
The strike continued for two more days until ending Thursday afternoon. After the picket lines wrapped up on Wednesday, there were rallies at many locations around the city, including outside LAUSD East headquarters in Boyle Heights, with great turnout. On the last day of the strike, a final rally at Los Angeles State Historic Park featured musical performances and striking workers marching in the street. Even on the last day, the workers were full of energy and determination, showing no signs of giving up on their demands.
Now that the strike is over, SEIU and LAUSD have reached a settlement, which includes a 30% wage increase, an increase in salary, and retroactive pay of $4000 to $8000. They will be heading back to work on Friday, March 24. UTLA is still trying to reach an agreement, and if the strikes and rallies are any sign, UTLA is ready to continue fighting. One of UTLA’s key demands is a 20% raise over two years, and LAUSD is unwilling to negotiate more than a 14% raise over three years.
Even though the strike is over, and teachers are back to school, another strike is not out of the question and the workers proved they will not back down. The inspiring SEIU 99/UTLA strike demonstrates how the working class has everything to gain when we stand up and fight back.