Hundreds of L.A. Schools May Close Next Week as Workers Strike

It’s Friday. A three-day strike planned for next week may shut down the Los Angeles Unified School District. Plus, a powerful new exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.


U.C. Berkeley academic workers joined roughly 48,000 people at University of California campuses in a workers strike last November.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Roughly half a million students in California could be staying home from school next week if employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest public school system, carry out a planned three-day strike that would start on Tuesday.

Saying that negotiations with the district had stalled, the union that represents 30,000 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians and other school employees announced that the workers intended to walk off the job next week. And the teachers’ union, which represents another roughly 30,000 L.A.U.S.D. employees, said its members, in solidarity, would not cross the picket line.

That means that more than 1,000 Los Angeles Unified schools may have to close from Tuesday through Thursday, according to the district superintendent, Alberto Carvalho.

S.E.I.U. Local 99, the union that represents the employees who are planning to strike, is seeking a 30 percent raise and other increases in compensation. Its members “know a strike will be a sacrifice, but the school district has pushed workers to take this action,” Max Arias, the executive director of Local 99, said in a statement.

The district is offering a 5 percent wage increase for the current school year and another 5 percent raise for the next, as well as one-time bonuses and additional raises for certain positions, officials said this week.

Carvalho called that a “historic offer,” and said that the district was working to reach a deal with union officials that would avert a strike. But in a sign that the walkout was becoming more likely, he urged parents to begin making arrangements with their employers and child care providers to prepare for schools to be closed. The contract dispute comes at a time when schoolchildren are only beginning to recover from educational setbacks they suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want to personally apologize to our families and our students,” Carvalho wrote on Twitter this week. “You deserve better. Know that we are doing everything possible to avoid a strike.”

Public support for organized labor is at a 50-year-high in the United States, and unions have made major inroads recently at high-profile corporations like Amazon and Starbucks. Strikes, especially by teachers and education workers, have become increasingly common over the past six years, a reflection of widespread frustration with low wages, poor working conditions and growing income inequality, according to Kent Wong, director of the U.C.L.A. Labor Center.

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“There’s tremendous discontent among working people that this isn’t working for them,” Wong told me. “The rise in worker organizing and the rise in worker strikes is absolutely a sign of the times.”

More American workers were on strike in 2018 than in any of the previous 30 years, according to Jane McAlevey, a senior policy fellow with the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center. The pandemic temporarily paused the trend toward more strikes, but workers’ anger continued to rise, she said, as they dealt with the dangerous work environments and staffing problems that the pandemic caused. “I think all of this is boiling over now,” McAlevey told me.

Teachers went on strike in Oakland last year to protest school closures, and classes were canceled for more than a week in Sacramento during a teachers’ strike there last spring.

And in November, roughly 48,000 academic workers at University of California campuses across the state went on strike in what was the largest and longest university-based labor action in American history. It ended nearly six weeks later with large pay increases for the workers — an outcome that is likely to keep inspiring others to walk out, Wong said: “There’s nothing that encourages workers to take action more than success.”

In 2019, when the teachers’ union in L.A. Unified organized a six-day strike, school campuses stayed open but attendance was low. Eric Garcetti, who was mayor of Los Angeles at the time, stepped in to help broker a deal to end the walkout.

That strike was a watershed, because of the way the public rallied around the teachers, Wong told me. He said the success of that strike was the reason the teachers union decided this week to stand in solidarity with the district’s blue-collar workers, something he called “extraordinary.”

Image“At first, I was just in disbelief,” Veronica Gonzalez, a doctoral student at the University of California, Irvine, recalled in an interview. “Then I was incensed.”Credit…Bethany Mollenkof for The New York Times

If you read one story, make it this

A U.C. Irvine Ph.D. candidate was denied a Fulbright-Hays scholarship under a regulation that penalized applicants if they grew up speaking the language of their proposed country for research.

ImageSunflower sea stars at the University of Washington laboratory in Friday Harbor. In the wild, they gorge on sea urchins.Credit…Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters

The rest of the news

Sunflower sea stars: Federal officials said this week that sunflower sea stars, huge starfish that until recently thrived in the waters of the West Coast, should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Immigration: A new California bill seeks to fund immigration defense for all migrants facing deportation, including those with felonies, CalMatters reports.


Feeding the revolution: Persian restaurants in Los Angeles have become places to share information on the Iranian revolution and reflect on the uprisings, LAist reports.

Water conservation: Flooding from atmospheric rivers allowed officials to lift water restrictions for nearly 7 million people, The Los Angeles Times reports.


Storm updates: Some residents in Tulare County blame a new housing development that paved over a creek for the devastating flooding that rushed through the area, The Los Angeles Times reports.


A secessionist in office: The newly appointed chief executive officer of Shasta County believes California should be split up into two states, The Los Angeles Times reports.

Twitch C.E.O. resigns: Emmett Shear, the chief executive of the livestreaming site Twitch, said that he was resigning, ending a 16-year tenure for the co-founder of the platform.

New at the de Young Museum: “An Archaeology of Silence,” a show from Kehinde Wiley depicting years of violence against Black people, opens in San Francisco this week.

ImageCredit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times.

What we’re eating

Asparagus, goat cheese and tarragon tart.

ImageThe view from Abalone Point, near Shelter Cove.Credit…Alexandra Hootnick for The New York Times

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Bruce Christie, who recommends Shelter Cove, between Fort Bragg and Eureka in Humboldt County:

“Shelter Cove is the only coastal community in the 75-mile stretch of California’s “Lost Coast,” where engineers gave up on extending Highway 1 because of the steep terrain. Twenty-six miles west of Garberville on Highway 101, it’s a town of about 600 full-time residents with a handful of lodgings and restaurants.

We started visiting 30 years ago when we were living in L.A., drawn by the beauty of the mountains and sea. We grew to love the dark nights, days when the sound of surf is all you can hear, and an environment that seems only lightly touched by the hands of man.

Shelter Cove is a great place to unwind, go fishing or hiking or tide-pooling, or just watch spectacular sunsets.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected] We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

And before you go, some good news

Richie Henderson is an iconic figure in Ukiah, the largest city in Mendocino County. For two decades, he has warmly greeted customers and cleaned tables at the popular Schat’s Bakery and Cafe in downtown, The Ukiah Daily Journal reports.

Now, Henderson’s face smiles from a billboard along Highway 101 — a tribute by the bakery’s owner, Zach Schat, to honor his longtime employee. “Thank you, Richie!” proclaims the sign.

The gesture has moved locals and prompted hundreds of online comments about Richie, of whom many people seem to be a fan. One commenter wrote: “I was there when he started. From the cameo performances at Christmas parties to his happy good mornings on his walk to work, Richie is one of the best parts of this community.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. Enjoy your weekend. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia, Isabella Grullón Paz and Lyna Bentahar contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]

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