the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Apr 3, 2023
Immediately after a three-day strike by school workers ended, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and SEIU Local 99, the union that represents the striking workers, announced a tentative agreement. It was obviously the walkout that made district officials agree to a contract. They had been stalling the negotiations, and forcing 40% of the district’s work force to work without a contract, for nearly three years.
But the strike was quite a show of force. Without the 30,000 striking workers—bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and special aid assistants, the very “essential workers”—the district was forced to shut down the schools.
The strikers went out on the picket lines in great numbers in pouring rain and held large, spirited rallies throughout the three days of the walkout. They drew the support of many students and parents. In a school district where 89% of the households are officially classified as “economically disadvantaged,” many parents said they certainly support the strikers—whose average pay, 25,000 dollars a year, is nowhere near a livable wage in L.A. The strikers got the support of the district’s 35,000 teachers also, who walked out in solidarity.
If ratified, the contract would provide raises, including retroactive raises going back to 2021, which would partially make up for what the workers lost to very high inflation during those years. The contract would also provide a minimum hourly wage of $22.50 for Local 99 members, and a one-time, 1,000-dollar bonus for current employees who worked in the 2020–21 school year, when the Covid-19 pandemic began.
The raise would certainly help the workers, who have been forced to take second and even third jobs to be able to pay rent and feed their children. But this contract would still not elevate many of these workers out of poverty. Not only because of the high cost of living in L.A., but also because this agreement is not fulfilling one of the workers’ key demands: more hours. The district has been keeping many of these workers on part-time schedules, while keeping schools severely short-staffed. The result has been schools that are run-down, dirty and unsafe, especially in working-class neighborhoods.
And this is a district that has been sitting, year after year, on cash reserves that are currently 5.12 billion dollars, and that pays the superintendent 440,000 dollars annually! But district officials have simply chosen NOT to use that money for adequate staffing, materials, building repairs and maintenance—NOT for improving children’s education.
Workers will vote on the agreement from April 3 to April 7. But whether this agreement passes or not, it leaves the door wide open for future fights. In fact, one of the things this strike shows is that, even to get a raise that partially makes up for what’s lost, a large mobilization is needed—a mobilization that draws in other workers.
Every fight like this can set an example for, and energize, other workers also, especially in a city like L.A. where, according to the mayor’s office, about one third of the work force is paid no more than the minimum wage.