Over 11,000 Los Angeles city workers are planning to strike on Tuesday, according to the union that represents many of the city’s public-sector staff.
City employees represented by SEIU Local 721, including those working in the sanitation department, at the city’s port and at Los Angeles International Airport, will strike for 24 hours, with picket lines forming in front of City Hall and LAX, a union representative confirmed to CNN on Monday.
“Every single one of our workers in the city is a front line public sector worker that’s out there serving the public every day,” David Green, president of SEIU Local 721, told CNN. “A lot of it goes unnoticed. But on Tuesday, we’re going to make sure everybody notices”
The planned work stoppage adds to the recent rush of union activity in Los Angeles and across the country this summer.
SEIU 721, which represents more than 95,000 workers in Southern California, said members voted to authorize the strike after “repeated labor law violations” by Los Angeles city management. Trash truck operators, LAX shuttle drivers and mechanics, and port boat captains are among the workers planning to strike.
Green said union members feel stretched thin amid hundreds of job vacancies in the city.
“Fortunately, we have a really terrific mayor that’s new to Los Angeles. We have some great city council members, but we have some real out of touch administrators that didn’t want to come to the table and they bargained in bad faith,” he said. “It was a real slap in the face to our members.”
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement that the city has been bargaining with the union in good faith.
“City workers are vital to the function of services for millions of Angelenos every day and to our local economy. 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,” she said.
The strike is the first by LA city workers in more than 40 years and comes amid a wave of union activity in the city and across the country.
Los Angeles is the epicenter of Hollywood actors’ and writers’ strikes that have brought the entertainment industry to a grinding halt, and the union representing 15,000 hotel workers, including cooks, room attendants, and front desk agents, has staged a series of rolling strikes in the city since the start of July. In Northern California, more than 4,500 San Jose city workers announced they will stage a 3-day strike beginning August 15, demanding pay that keeps up with living costs.
“Coming out of the pandemic, I think people have learned that you can’t take workers for granted,” Green said of the recent wave of strike activity. “We’re fabric of the community, we affect your life on a day-to-day basis.”
Recent labor unrest has affected more than just California: thousands of United Auto Workers union members are threatening to strike in September absent a labor agreement with Detroit’s big three automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis.
A massive economic disruption was narrowly avoided last month when the Teamsters union reached a tentative agreement with UPS on a new contract, potentially avoiding a strike by more than 300,000 UPS workers that would have potentially cost the US economy billions of dollars. The Teamsters membership now has to approve the contract by vote for the chance of a strike to be fully over.
Los Angeles city departments are bracing for the impact of Tuesday’s work stoppage and attempting to mitigate disruptions to city operations.
For example, LAX has warned passengers to allow extra time to travel to and from the airport on Tuesday. “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 on our guests,” Dae Levine, a Los Angeles World Airports spokesperson, told CNN.
The Port of Los Angeles, the busiest port in the United States by container volume and the focal point of many of the country’s supply chain disruptions during the pandemic, told CNN that port operations would continue. However, 300 employees at the port are represented by SEIU 721.