Tens of thousands of workers in the Los Angeles School District have gone on strike for three days. MARIO TAMA (Getty Images via AFP)
The rain has not interrupted the start of the strike in the second largest school district in the United States.
Hundreds of teachers have planted this Tuesday outside their schools in Los Angeles to demand better wages and conditions for public school workers who are not in the classroom, but whose work is essential for the operation of the centers: the drivers, guards, janitors, special education assistants and cafeteria employees, among others.
The protest, which has been seconded by the teachers' union, will leave 420,000 minors without classes for three days.
About 20 teachers were protesting very early this morning at a school in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood, south of Los Angeles.
In one hand, the teachers held an umbrella to protect themselves from the rain.
In the other they had the posters with the main claim of the protest.
“We want respect,” read the message, which could be found in both English and Spanish in many of the 1,000 schools that have stopped their activities from today until Thursday.
“We refuse to be invisible, we refuse to be silenced.
We are ready to fight and we are proud that the teachers have joined us in a gesture of solidarity.
United we are all going to triumph”, said Conrado Guerrero, the leader of section 99 of the service workers union, who has called the strike this morning.
The protest broke out because negotiations between the Los Angeles Unified School District and Section 99, which groups some 30,000 public school service workers in the metropolitan area of the city, have failed.
The organization hasn't had a new collective bargaining agreement in three years and is seeking a 30% wage increase, plus an extra $2 an hour for the lowest-earning employees.
Some of the employees said that in more than 20 years of employment they have not seen their pay rise more than $10 an hour in a city where living is becoming more expensive.
The best offer came on Friday, when the district offered a 5% increase to its initial proposal, a 19% hike.
This was rejected, making the closure of schools imminent for three days.
At the same time, but in parallel, the more than 20,000 teachers who are part of the school union are negotiating a 20% increase in their salaries.
The superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, has indicated through a statement that he seeks to resume dialogue with the section to reach an agreement that can satisfy both parties.
“I understand the frustration of our employees, which has been building not just in a few years, but probably for decades.
It is on the basis of recognizing historical inequalities that we have put this historic offer on the table,” said Carvalho, who came to office in February of last year and immediately inherited a crisis that is difficult to resolve.
The superintendent has admitted that the offer made wants to mediate between his obligation to the less fortunate workers in the system and his financial responsibilities at the head of the organization.
The mobilization of workers has become a magnet for the political ambitions of some.
Congressman Adam Schiff, who seeks to reach the Senate to fill the vacancy left by Dianne Feinstein, has been seen this morning in Los Angeles to show his support for unionism.
“The average income of our bus drivers, cafeteria workers and classroom assistants is $25,000 a year ($2,083 a month).
Who can live with that?
they are poverty wages,” the Democrat said at a press conference.
The strike has put hundreds of thousands of families in trouble, who have seen their daily routines changed by the union demonstration.
The vast majority of the schools that have closed their doors, between 75 and 80% of the total, serve less favored Latino or black communities.
There come children of immigrants who have two jobs or more to survive.
Or the opposite, unemployed or absent parents who live on government support.
District authorities feared that the strike would result in thousands of children going hungry during the 72-hour demonstration.
Normally, schools serve 300,000 breakfasts, 285,000 lunches and up to 70,000 dinners for the district's school population.
The City Council has offered to fill the void left by the strike by offering tens of thousands of boxes of food in the coming days.
The food will be available for families to pick up at 24 points in the city between 7:00 and 10:30.
This is the second teachers' strike to hit California in less than a year.
Last year, nearly 50,000 academic workers from the most important universities in the State went on strike for more than 10 days, waiting for better wages and conditions.
The strike was made up of PhD researchers and general researchers from institutions in Berkley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz.
The lack of good conditions has not only affected the academic leadership, but also the base of the pyramid.