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400,000 Los Angeles Students Missed School As Union Employees Launch 3-Day Strike Demanding Better Wages, Benefits

  Nearly half a million students in Los Angeles missed school Tuesday after tens of thousands of workers employed with the second-largest di...

 Nearly half a million students in Los Angeles missed school Tuesday after tens of thousands of workers employed with the second-largest district in the nation walked off the job, beginning a three-day strike demanding higher wages to afford Southern California living.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) employees, which staff roughly 65,000 workers and serves 442,000 students, launched the strike early Tuesday morning after a year of negotiating pay increases and health benefits with district officials came to a standstill.

“Some of our bus drivers are actually homeless, some of them can’t pay their bills,” Lynneier Boyd-Peterson, a bus driver employed with the Los Angeles Unified School District, told KTLA. “They can’t even pay their mortgage — it’s impossible.”

Boyd-Peterson is one of many employees represented in the strike organized by The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 union or United Teachers Los Angeles (UTA), which includes educators and other school districts employees, like bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, and teaching aids.

“We love our students, and we’re here for the students,” she said. “But if we can’t properly take care of our kids, how can we properly come here and work as well?”

Union officials are seeking an overall pay increase of 30% in base salary over four years, an additional $2-an-hour increase for the lowest-paid workers, and other increases in compensation as most of the full-time and part-time employees make an average of $25,000 annually, which barely covers the costly price of living within a drivable radius to district schools.

“We are asking the parents to please stand with us because if we can take care of our families properly, we can actually take care of their families as well,” she added.

The New York Times reported that SEIU officials called for a limited strike this week to protest the district’s negotiation tactics.

Max Arias, the executive director of Local 99, told The Times in a statement that its members “know a strike will be a sacrifice, but the school district has pushed workers to take this action.”

Yolanda Mimes Reed, a special education assistant who attended the rally in Koreatown, told NPR that she works four different jobs to afford to live in Los Angeles, and seeing an increase in her salary would pull her above the poverty line.

“And it means letting go of one of those jobs, so I don’t have to be working all the time,” Reed said. “I can spend some time with my family.”

District officials reportedly offered the unions a 23% raise over a five-year period, including bonuses. However, union officials have yet to respond to the past three offers.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho reportedly said on Monday that he hoped to have “a transparent, honest conversation” to stop the planned three-day strike.

“We understand the plight, the frustration, and the realities faced by our workforce members,” Carvalho said Monday evening, NPR reported. “We’re willing to work with them, but the way we find a solution is by having a partner at the table to actually negotiate possible results.”

“We were never in the same room or even in the same building,” he said, according to The Epoch Times.

Aaron Withe, CEO of Freedom Foundation, a Washington-D.C.-based think tank advocating for public employees from political exploitation, told The Daily Wire in a statement that the organization frequently hears from teachers who are sick of union politics — especially after seeing what the COVID school shutdowns have done children, he said, calling the latest strike from union officials “unconscionable.”

“They just want to teach their students reading, writing, and math, Withe said, adding, “they’re fed up.”.

The strike marks the school district’s second protest in the last four years, where United Teachers of Los Angeles went on strike for six days before reaching a deal.

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