Thousands of Los Angeles city employees, including sanitation workers, lifeguards and traffic officers, walked off the job Tuesday for a 24-hour strike alleging unfair labor practices. Picket lines went up before dawn at Los Angeles International Airport and other locations, and a rally was planned for later in the day at City Hall. SEIU Local 721 said airport custodians, heavy-duty mechanics and engineers are among the more than 11,000 LA city workers who are striking.
The union said its members voted to authorize the walkout because the city has failed to bargain in good faith and also engaged in labor practices that restricted employee and union rights.
“City workers are vital to the function of services for millions of Angelenos every day and to our local economy,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Monday. “They deserve fair contracts and we have been bargaining in good faith with SEIU 721 since January. The city will always be available to make progress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
It’s the latest strike to overtake the nation’s second-largest city in recent months. Hollywood writers have been striking since May, and actors joined them last month. Los Angeles hotel workers have staged staggered walkouts all summer, and earlier this year school staff walked picket lines and there was also a contract dispute at Southern California ports.
“The City of Los Angeles is not going to shut down,” Bass insisted. But her office said some services would be affected, including parking enforcement and some traffic operations. This week’s trash pickup will be staggered by one day citywide until normal service resumes Monday, officials said.
Los Angeles International Airport officials urged travelers to allow for extra time for travel to and from LAX during the strike.
“LAX is working diligently with our airport partners to ensure that our operations will continue as close to normal as possible and to mitigate the impacts of the work action to our guests,” airport spokesperson Dae Levine said in an email Monday.
The union said it expects about 300 lifeguards working at dozens of city swimming pools would strike. Rose Watson, spokesperson for the Department of Recreation and Parks, said Monday afternoon that it wasn’t immediately clear whether pools would be closed.
Approximately 300 Port of Los Angeles employees were expected to participate in the walkout, according to port spokesperson Phillip Sanfield. “The Port of Los Angeles respects the fair bargaining rights of all employees,” Sanfield said in an email Monday. “With an anticipated job action, Port of Los Angeles operations will continue.”
The union approved a one-year deal with the city in November 2022 with the understanding that they would return to the bargaining table in January, said SEIU Local 721 Chief of Staff Gilda Valdez. With the broader agreement in place for the next year, the city and the union would then negotiate over a number of “specials,” or smaller specific proposals, Valdez told The Associated Press.
But the city reneged on the promise to negotiate on those issues and “only gave us some small agreements that basically amount to peanuts,” Valdez said. The union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the City of Los Angeles Employee Relations Board over this issue, along with previous claims filed over several other issues.
“This strike is a very strong message: ‘come to the table,’” Valdez said, noting that the union’s members had worked throughout the pandemic to keep the city running.
The union plans to return to the bargaining table with the city the week of August 14 to resume talks, she said.
In Northern California, two unions that represent nearly 4,500 San Jose city employees voted Monday to authorize a three-day strike for next week.
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