Opinion: Show them the money

LA educators need our support in their three-day strike


2019 UTLA strike in Little Tokyo. Via Mike Chickey/Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, March 21, more than 35,000 teachers and other education workers for the Los Angeles Unified School District began their three-day strike.

LAUSD, the second largest school district in the country, has shut down as a result as education workers from teachers, to bus drivers and custodians represented by United Teachers Los Angeles and the Service Employees International Union demand better wages.

The strike, affecting more than 500,000 students across the district, highlights how integral the education system is in the lives of everyday people, especially people with lower incomes.

Aside from providing integral early education and despite a lack of quality in many aspects, school lunches and other programs provided are nonetheless integral to the communities they serve. The three-day strike by the UTLA and SEIU seeks to address these issues by withholding their labor to highlight its importance.

The best action you can take to show your support is to join the unions in protest. Showing your support on social media is just as helpful, as this is where potentially millions of people online can be swayed by one post or tweet. Every voice counts.

In the second biggest school district in the country, it is time for everyone to stand behind the people who are underpaid in both raising and educating the next generation of our nation.

UTLA and the SEIU Local 99 have been in contract bargaining with LAUSD for higher wages by asking for a 20% raise for over two years. According to the Los Angeles Times, UTLA represents around 35,000 teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses and librarians while SEIU Local 99 includes special cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and others. LAUSD has responded with different offers that have not met any of the two unions’ demands.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz listed the main problem for the labor discontent on the union’s website: “In a school district where 86% of students live in poverty and staff salaries aren’t nearly enough to pay rent or sometimes even put food on the table, we are proud to stand alongside the members of SEIU Local 99 as we demand an end to the hoarding of resources and call on LAUSD to make the investments today necessary to secure our success tomorrow.”

According to the same UTLA statement, the “hoarding” of resources from LAUSD that Myart-Cruz is referring to is the $4.9 billion in reserves the district will have by the end of the school year, with $3.18 billion being in unrestricted reserves that are not earmarked for specific programs.

The LA Times interviewed parents on their thoughts on the strike. Many are worried about finding childcare along with the daily free lunches their children will not receive for the duration of the strike.

School staff need public support because the three-day harm to parents and students outweighs the current underfunded education students are receiving. With The Guardian reporting that 70% of teachers are seriously considered quitting, staff salaries are not enough to prevent 28% from taking second jobs in LA.

Additionally, a report from the Economic Policy Institute shows how low wages and poor working conditions have driven people away from teaching as a profession, exacerbating the ongoing teacher shortage. The report also shows how teachers, arguably the most essential group of workers in education, have been hit hard by stagnating wages, and the ripple effects this has on the quality of education broadly.

If the strike is not successful, school staff salaries will continue to be under the amount necessary for a living wage in LA, students will continue receiving inadequate education from a lack of funding.

It is likely that the outcome of this strike will dictate if raises are also on the horizon for other Southern California school districts. Even if you do not live in LA, this strike will still affect you and your family. In keeping a roughly $4 billion reserve, we are risking the education of our children and their future.