Los Angeles schools shut down as staff strike for better pay
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thousands of service workers backed by teachers began a three-day strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday, shutting down education for a half-million students in the nation's second-largest school system.
Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 teachers' aides, special education assistants, bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and other support staff, walked out amid stalled contract talks.
Teachers joined rain-soaked picket lines early Tuesday as workers demanded better wages and increased staffing before heading to a huge rally outside the district's headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
Some held signs that read “We keep schools safe, Respect Us!” The district has more than 500,000 students from Los Angeles and all or part of 25 other cities and unincorporated county areas. Nearly three-quarters are Latino.
Bus driver Mike Cervantes began his day of protest with a 4 a.m. rally at a bus yard before joining a demonstration at a school and then heading downtown.
“I'm going to be here, rain or shine,” he said. “This is historic.”
Leaders of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing 35,000 educators, counsellors and other staff, earlier pledged solidarity with the strikers.
“These are the co-workers that are the lowest-paid workers in our schools and we cannot stand idly by as we consistently see them disrespected and mistreated by this district,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz told a news conference.
Superintendent Alberto M Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate and said that he was prepared to meet at any time day or night.
“We remain ready to return to negotiations with SEIU Local 99 so we can provide an equitable contract to our hardworking employees and get our students back in classrooms,” the superintendent said in a statement Tuesday.
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