Teachers in Los Angeles push for pay raises

Teachers in Los Angeles push for pay raises

After lengthy negotiations between the school employees’ union and the district, which reached an impasse that led to a teachers’ strike and three days of school closures in Los Angeles, Mayor Karen Bass stepped in.

In the end, the parties reached what they themselves now say was a historic agreement, meeting all of the strikers’ demands. Chief among them was a 30 percent wage increase for school employees, including teaching assistants, bus drivers, librarians, and cafeteria workers. Before the strike, they received about $25,000 a year.

“Prices went up on everything – food, gasoline. Some are forced to sleep in their cars because they can’t pay their rent. It’s hard to live like this,” says Ellen, an elementary school teacher’s assistant. She says her colleagues have to look for extra income all the time, or even new jobs, because it is impossible to feed a family on a salary of $2,000 a month in Los Angeles.

School district leaders have been saying for months that there is no money in the budget for such a raise. The union objected and protested. But after three days of strike action, the money was found and the disagreement disappeared.

“For the half-million students in the Los Angeles schools and their families, I have news: We have a deal. So the schools will continue to operate and the children, including my grandson, will continue to learn,” said Karen Bass, mayor of Los Angeles, after the negotiations.

After the contract is signed, which still has to be formally approved by a vote of the union, school workers’ salaries will go up immediately by 15 percent and another 15 percent on Jan. 1, 2024. In addition, teachers will have their salaries recalculated starting July 2021 and will be paid the difference. School employees will also be given a one-time bonus of a thousand dollars, as well as welfare benefits.

“Everyone is entitled to health insurance, and so we made the historic decision to provide it to every employee, even those who don’t work full-time,” said Los Angeles County School District Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.

In addition, all teaching assistants will get the work hours they’ve asked for. And it will also affect their salaries. For school employees, such an agreement, they admit, is a real victory. The strike left the city’s schoolchildren without classes for three days.

“I want to appeal to the parents of L.A. schoolchildren, to the students, and to everyone who has supported our school employees for treating this strike with compassion and understanding. We needed to bring attention to this issue, and if we hadn’t, nothing would have changed,” School Employees Union head Max Arias addressed the residents.

The contract, which the parties plan to sign in the coming days, will run through the summer of 2024. Until that date, the union says, no strikes are planned in Los Angeles schools. Discussions about the new contract will take place as early as next summer.

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