“When bosses refuse to listen to demands, workers WILL shut things down!” Mary Kay Henry, SEIU international president, said over Twitter. “Solidarity with over 11,000 Los Angeles city workers who are tired of the lack of respect and are making sure they win a fair, strong contract this year!”
The SEIU action was the latest in an extraordinary cascade of labor actions this summer, including historic twin strikes by the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild—American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The WGA strike will mark its 100th day this week after talks Friday with studio heads went nowhere. SAG-AFTRA joined the fight more recently, in mid-July.
But the municipal strike, which is planned as a one-day action, could have more far-reaching impacts for residents of the sprawling city.
City workers responsible for trash collection, directing traffic, staffing animal shelters, operating the city’s swimming pools and other day-to-day functions walked off the job, threatening consequences large and small. These workers also direct traffic at the Hollywood Bowl and at the Greek Theatre, where Dominic Fike is performing Tuesday night in a sold-out show, creating possible traffic snarls.
Taylor Swift, who is wrapping up her L.A. stint with two final shows on Tuesday and Wednesday, performs at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, which is a separate city from Los Angeles and therefore unaffected by the work stoppages.
Picketers began marching before dawn at Los Angeles International Airport and at City Hall to broadcast their complaints, including alleging understaffing across key agencies.
“We’re overworked and it’s just not safe, it’s not safe to be working like that,” worker Dion Cornelius told KTLA Channel 5 as he marched outside LAX.
Mayor Karen Bass (D) vowed that essential services would go forward, while urging travelers to leave extra time to get to the airport.
“The City of Los Angeles is not going to shut down,” Bass said in a statement. “My office is implementing a plan ensuring no public safety or housing and homelessness emergency operations are impacted by this action.”
In an earlier interview with The Washington Post, Local 721 President David Green said the city had failed to address critical issues such as mass vacancies in the sanitation department. As they exchange proposals ahead of a new contract in December, the two sides have begun to squabble over how to handle the talks, with the SEIU filing complaints with the city’s Employee Relations Board. City officials disputed the union complaints.
“We will continue bargaining in good faith,” Bass said.
The labor actions come at a transformative moment for the U.S. economy following the pandemic, with the job market tight. Many middle class and poor workers are flexing their newfound power amid anger over increased automation and a sense that they are not reaping the benefits they see their bosses get.
The writers and actors are fighting the studios over everything from streaming residuals to Artificial Intelligence in an entertainment landscape that has changed dramatically since the last contracts were negotiated three years ago.
Hotel workers with Unite Here 11 have also been holding intermittent strikes in Los Angeles and nearby cities. They alleged in a labor complaint Monday that some hotel bosses had begun to intimidate them physically, which the hotels denied.
UPS narrowly avoided a strike earlier this summer while nurses, school workers, graduate students and others have all gone out on strike.