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Non-teaching L.A. school employees will vote on authorizing strike

Non-teaching L.A. school employees will vote on authorizing strike
L.A. school custodian Edna Logan joins other SEIU Local 99 workers Monday as they march at Marlton School in Baldwin Hills. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The union that represents Los Angeles school cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians announced Monday that it will hold a vote to authorize a strike.

If the workers approve a strike, a walkout would not be inevitable, but union leaders could call one without returning to the membership for permission. The move could provide more leverage at the bargaining table to negotiators for Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union.

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Voting is scheduled to take place March 12 through March 24.

Union leaders made their announcement during a demonstration at Marlton School in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area. The campus serves deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and the union's members include aides who work with the disabled. During negotiations over staffing and work hours, the union has accused the L.A. Unified School District of illegally cutting the hours of these aides.

The district has denied any wrongdoing.

The nation's second-largest school system faces financial pressures on various fronts, including pension deficits, unfunded retiree healthcare and declining enrollment — caused by demographic changes and the growth of independently run charter schools. District officials have said the school system must cut costs to remain solvent.

Local 99 represents nearly 30,000 full- and part-time district employees and has been bargaining with L.A. Unified for nearly a year. Other unions, including the one that represents teachers, also have expired contracts and are in contract negotiations.

The district has offered a 2% raise for the 2017-18 year, with an option to reopen salary discussions in the two years "if our economic situation improves," said Najeeb Khoury, chief labor negotiator for L.A. Unified.

LAUSD Bus Driver Tanya Walters, SEIU Local 99 Vice President speaks at protest, followed by
LAUSD Custodian Edna Logan.  (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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