LAUSD files lawsuit to stave off strike and school closures
- US News
- March 18, 2023
- No Comment
Los Angeles Unified officials are filing a final legal battle to halt or prevent a three-day walkout that would shut down classrooms in the nation’s second-largest school district starting Tuesday.
The district has asked state labor inspectorates to issue an injunction to end the strike, saying it is illegal. Sources in the district admitted they don’t know if the state labor relations agency will process the application in time to prevent the strike.
The challenge cites the unusual legal basis and timing of the strike, which would take place before the typical step-by-step negotiation process is complete.
The strike is being led by the Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents about 30,000 bus drivers, teacher assistants, campus security assistants, special education assistants, janitors, gardeners and cafeteria workers. United Teachers Los Angeles leaders have encouraged their members to join the strike. UTLA represents approximately 35,000 teachers, nurses, counselors, therapists and librarians.
Each union is on a separate bargaining track with LA Unified. Local 99 is still in the process and has reached the fact-finding stage, according to documents filed with state labor inspectorates.
In general, investigations would be completed before a strike. In addition, both sides would have to present their “last, best and last offer”.
But this job promotion is different.
This is actually a protest by Local 99 in response to alleged unlawful actions by LA Unified that the union claims to have prevented its leadership and members from engaging in legitimate union-related activities.
The district denies any wrongdoing. In its filing, the district accuses Local 99 of using baseless allegations as an excuse, when the real problem that led to the strike is the district’s unwillingness to meet the union’s demands for wages, benefits and other conditions.
The filing also calls for an injunction because certain members of Local 99 are “essential employees” whose absence from work during the strike would “immediately endanger public health and safety.”
LA Unified’s filing also notes that the state labor agency “determined that strikes or other work stoppages prior to the completion” of the bargaining process “violate the union’s duty to negotiate in good faith and/or exercise good faith in the union.” Solving the impasse involving procedures.”
Local 99 responded with a statement that school district officials “have repeatedly disregarded and violated the rights of workers for exercising their right to advocate for improvements in their livelihoods and the student services they provide. The indictment of LAUSD is just a last-minute legal attempt to further intimidate workers and silence their voices.”
An agreement that would prevent the strike seemed unlikely on Friday because no negotiations were taking place between LA Unified officials and Local 99.
The teachers’ union negotiated with the district on Friday, but even in those negotiations, an agreement seemed unlikely. And even a settlement with UTLA wouldn’t stop Local 99 members from going out.
Local 99 last held a negotiation session with the district on March 1st. LA Schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho said this week that he and his team are willing to meet with Local 99 “around the clock” to prevent a strike.
He urged the union not to take any step that would further harm students who are already struggling to recover academically and emotionally from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Union officials said the effort was disingenuous and too little, too late.
“More than half of the members of SEIU Local 99 are also parents of school-age children, many of them LAUSD students,” spokeswoman Blanca Gallegos said Friday. “We are very aware of the impact that a strike will have on our families. LAUSD has urged workers to take this step because they continue to disrespect workers.”
She added, “SEIU Local 99 continues to pursue the legal settlement process with the state. If LAUSD is to break the impasse, they must meet workers’ demands for a living wage, more hours, more staff and respect in the workplace.”
The union is seeking a flat rate increase of 30% plus an additional $2 an hour for the lowest paid workers.
The district had offered a 15% increase over three years plus one-time bonuses of 4% and 5% in consecutive years.
On Friday, the district changed its offer:
5% one-time bonus for school year 2020-21 5% rolling increase for 2021-22 5% rolling increase for 2022-23 6% rolling increase for 2023-23 3% rolling increase for 2024-25
Meanwhile, the school system, city, county and local groups continue to prepare contingency plans for a strike.
LA Unified created reach.lausd.net/schoolupdates to provide resources to families during the downtime. Updates and additional information will be posted “as soon as they become available,” according to the school system.
The site provides information on learning activities, Grab & Go food locations, tutoring services, enrichment activities, and cultural opportunities at Los Angeles and Los Angeles County Park locations that offer free youth programs.
The public library system offers expanded programs and the City of LA Recreation Department offers expanded hours and activities, while many groups that offer extracurricular activities off campus are increasing their activities to provide as much full-time care as possible.
School leaders will be in touch with families daily to provide relevant updates, the district said.
The school system will also post updates on social media.