LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Thousands of Los Angeles Unified School District service workers overwhelmingly approved what has been described as a ``historic'' labor agreement, with over 99% of members voting in favor of the deal, union officials said today.
The roughly 30,000 members of the Service Employees International Union Local 99 cast ballots on the proposed contract in-person and online from April 3-7. The agreement was reached March 24 following a strike that shuttered the nation's second-largest school district for three days.
The deal also must be approved by the LAUSD Board of Education. A representative for the district said that vote is expected to occur at the next regular board meeting, set for April 18.
``This contract recognizes the essential work of those who work hard to ensure students can learn in a clean, safe, and supportive environment,'' Max Arias, executive director of SEIU Local 99, said Saturday.
``It is a major step forward with significant improvements to wages, work hours, and benefits for dedicated education workers who have been left behind for far too long. It will also lead to long-term benefits for student services as improved jobs will allow the district to recruit and retain more workers to help feed students, transport them to school, support them in the classroom, and keep school clean,'' Arias added.
The contract effectively met the union's demand for a 30% pay raise and also includes bonus payments, retroactive pay and fully paid health benefits. In a previous statement, the district said the agreement ``addresses historic pay inequities, creates a massive expansion of health care benefits for part-time employees, invests considerable resources into professional development for the workforce, all while maintaining financial stability for the district.''
According to the SEIU, the 30% wage hike will increase the average salary of the union members from $25,000 a year to $33,000. The deal also includes a $1,000 bonus for all members who were with the district during the 2020-21 school year. It also includes a 6% ongoing wage increase retroactive to July 2021, a 7% wage increase retroactive to July 2022 and a $2 per hour increase for all employees effective Jan. 1, 2024, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. The district noted that the contract would bring the LAUSD's minimum wage to $22.52 an hour, ahead of the state and the city of Los Angeles.
It would also provide health benefits for part-time employees who work four or more hours per day, including dependent coverage. It also calls for increased hours and pay for paraprofessionals who work with special-needs students, and invests $3 million in an Education and Professional Development Fund for SEIU members.
Carvalho repeatedly referred to the contract as ``historic,'' noting that in recent years, most negotiated contracts resulted in wage increases of 2.5% to 3%. The SEIU's three-day strike in March was joined in solidarity by the roughly 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the district's teachers. SEIU Local 99 represents cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants and others.
The district and the union both exchanged accusations of unfair bargaining during contract talks and during the strike itself, with the district filing papers with the state accusing the union of engaging in an illegal strike by walking out before the bargaining process was completed. The union filed allegations of unfair labor practices, saying union members were subjected to harassment and intimidation tactics by the district.