SEIU Local 99 And UTLA Join Forces In Their Fight For Fairness In LAUSD

Amy Carranza, Co-Managing Editor

Updated on Monday, March 20, 2023 at 11:37 a.m.

On Wednesday, March 15, a historic United For LA Schools / Beyond Recovery rally took place in the heart of Los Angeles, Downtown L.A., right outside City Hall at Grand Park. 

Thousands of UTLA members crowded around the concrete stairs, muddy grass, and stood in solidarity alongside the thousands of SEIU Local 99 members there too. Other attendees in solidarity included Students Deserve.


Amy Carranza
Amy Carranza









Towards the end of the rally, SEIU Local 99 leaders announced that the union will be striking for three days next week starting Tuesday, March 21. UTLA will also be out on the picket lines during that period of time.

According to SEIU Local 99 Political Director Lester Garcia, Local 99 has been fighting for more equitable wages and members have really been more impacted by the lack of negotiations with LAUSD than the district’s refusal to address the needs of the union. 

“We have to remember that these people who stayed behind during the pandemic were the people that fed our families,” he said.

“Only three years ago, they were asked to come in when the Coronavirus was at its height, when we had no vaccine, where we were trying to get our hands on PPE—these people showed up every single day.”

Now that the Los Angeles Unified School District has said their thanks, SEIU is at the bargaining table and the district refuses to address their demands, Garcia said.

Including the across-the-board 30% raise, according to the Los Angeles Times, SEIU Local 99 is also asking for full-time work hours and more staff members in order to give adequate student services. 

At the rally, an anonymous special education assistant said, “the district doesn’t respect our seniority.”

 “They want to move us according to whatever they need in schools, and we hope that the outcome of this rally will lead us to not strike,” they said. “A strike was never intended, but because they were not meeting us with our negotiations, we want to make sure that they can hear us along with our demands.”

Amy Carranza
Amy Carranza









In a statement from SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias, he said that “LAUSD has been misleading the public on why employees are striking.”

“This strike is about respect for essential workers who have been treated as a second-class workforce by LAUSD for far too long,” he said. 

Despite these claims, the opposition says otherwise. On Tuesday, March 14, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho wrote a letter to parents of LAUSD students, which said that Los Angeles Unified has “made a historic, comprehensive offer, including a more than 15% increase in our minimum wage (to more than $20 per hour), health benefits even for our part-time employees, and additional hours and wages for staff serving students with special needs.”

“A strike would impact our students right now, but accepting all of our labor partners’ demands would mean future program cutbacks, possible job losses, or even bankruptcy,” Carvalho added.

Additionally, since March 11, Los Angeles Unified has sent out several tweets on Twitter, posting infographics saying that “Los Angeles Unified is committed to reaching agreement with all our labor partners, including UTLA, with whom we have been negotiating in good faith and have reached agreement with on several topics.” 

“SEIU is simply refusing to negotiate,” Caravalho added in a personal statement delivered in a tweet

Amy Carranza

However, according to the UTLA website, SEIU and UTLA have been fighting for a contract that would bring educational workers out of poverty, reduce class sizes, and fully staff each school in LAUSD.

Furthermore, Esperanza Martinez, Lead Community Schools Coach for both UTLA and LAUSD, said that as a mother of two boys, putting the community at the center of school campaigns and contract demands ensures that teachers and support staff experience the respect, dignity, and humanity they deserve.

“We’re here at this moment of time with classified staff and certificated staff to say, ‘District, enough is enough. Stop hoarding money and put it in our schools.’”

Additionally, Venice High School’s UTLA Chapter Chair Jennifer Barnhill also said that the purpose of standing in solidarity with SEIU Local 99 is to encourage the district to listen to the demands of both unions. 

“It’s not just a few people asking for something—it’s everybody—including our labor partners asking for these demands,” she said. 

Not just from the union’s labor partners, but additional demands are also being asked for by students such as Mani Sefas-Loos, a junior at Girls Academic Leadership Academy and Students Deserve Member.

“There are programs that have given support to black students such as the Black Student Achievement Plan, which Students Deserve fought for, but beyond that, there’s not a lot of funding for mental health resource sources, psychiatric social workers, housing relief—things that could approve the materials in the students life,” she said. 

“I hope UTLA gets that 20% raise they’ve been asking for for two years, that we have smaller class sizes, and that we get more funding for BSAP because when issues that are less addressed and were already bad before the pandemic are exacerbated, it makes it harder for both teachers and students to navigate daily life and provide an adequate education when they’re so caught up in everything else.”

Amy Carranza

Just as teachers wish for their own demands to be implemented into the LAUSD contract, social studies teacher Katrina RiChard wishes for a positive outcome for the members of SEIU Local 99 as well as she empathizes with the reality of being underpaid and overworked.

“If you just look at the salaries mathematically, there’s no way you can live in Los Angeles on that salary. No way,” she said.

“In addition to some of the conditions they find themselves in in some schools, they’re understaffed, and they’re overworked. I understand it.”

As someone who grew up outside of the United States, social studies teacher Ahsan Minhas, the department chair, has a different approach to looking at this historic unionization between UTLA and SEIU Local 99.

“On one hand, you have SEIU, which is predominantly like a working class union, and UTLA, which is more middle class, and what’s really interesting is that these students have come together in the sort of realization that ‘yes, we may be working class and middle class but we face the same issues,  the same kind of exploitation at the hands of employer,’” he said.

With these unions working together, it will hopefully be the beginning of a shift in the way people think about themselves and their jobs and the professions and how it relates to other people, Minhas said, because according to him, America doesn’t like to talk about class due to its “anti communist hysteria.” 

“A lot of Americans just associate class with communism when in reality, that’s how capitalism works because any organization that pays you under capitalism, they are going to try to extract as much value from your labor as possible, and that’s just how the system works,” he said. 

“The two unions joining forces is not some kind of Marxist socialist revolution—the union’s saying that we know how the game is being played,” Minhas said.

Moreover, in the acknowledgement that SEIU Local 99 members do face the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck and homelessness, along with teachers’ experiences in LAUSD, it all amounts to asking for fairness. 

“For the district and the superintendent to say that this is a circus of clowns and to not negotiate in good faith, showing up late for meetings with a coffee in their hand, that is why you had tens of thousands of people on Wednesday because people are saying ‘enough, treat us fairly,’” Minhas said.

“Nobody wants to work in LAUSD. Why? It’s because we pay our custodians very, very poorly, so if you pay teachers well, if you pay workers well, you get happy teachers. You get better teachers, you get happy workers, you get more workers, you have more people who clean the restrooms, supervise—it’ll make us better.”