Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District workers represented by the Service Employees International Union will begin voting Monday on whether to authorize the union to call a strike in the midst of contract talks.
Taking part in the strike authorization vote will be district cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, special education assistants and other workers represented by SEIU Local 99, which has accused the district of unfair labor practices "and bad-faith bargaining."
Voting is expected to continue through March 23. Union officials said if the workers authorize a strike, a walkout could potentially occur during the current school year.
"Our goal is to secure a fair contract," said union Vice President Tanya Walters, a bus driver. "We want good livelihoods for the dedicated school workers who help our children learn. And we want staffing levels that ensure every child has the support and services they need to succeed."
The union has accused the district of cutting hours of special education assistants and under-staffing janitorial services at schools. The union also wants the district to increase its proposed 2 percent wage hike offer.
LAUSD chief labor negotiator Najeeb Khoury said the district values the union as a "labor partner" and has "engaged in economically responsible bargaining, which means we must make proposals that take into account our structural deficit."
"We have a solid offer of a 2 percent ongoing raise for the 2017-18 school year, adding seven extra work days or their equivalent for this school year, creating a $1 million cleanliness fund, and allowing for economic reopeners that allow the parties to come back to the table if our economic situation improves in the 2018-19 or 2019-20 school years.
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"We encourage SEIU Local 99 to continue working with us at the table to find solutions that take into account our economic reality," Khoury said. "We trust that SEIU Local 99 will follow the law and will not declare a strike before going through all the statutory mandated procedures, including mediation and fact-finding."
According to SEIU, contract negotiations have been going on for nearly a year, but "no significant movement has been made on key issues, including wages and staffing shortages."