Jan. 14 (UPI) -- At least 30,000 Los Angeles school teachers walked off the job Monday, frustrated with their pay, benefits and resources in the classroom.
Teachers are forming picket lines at the schools and many students and non-teachers are joining them in solidarity. For weeks, a teachers union has been at odds with the Los Angeles Unified School District over the concerns. Monday's strike follows a weekend during which no new deal was reached.
United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents about 35,000 teachers, had previously delayed the strike, hoping it could be pre-empted by a new labor deal. Failure to come to agreement over the weekend set it into motion. UTLA is trying to rally teachers in other California districts to join its movement.
"You can't put students first if you put teachers last," UTLA said in a tweet.
The district said all its campuses will be open Monday, but the Early Education Centers will only be open to special-needs students and the state preschool sites are closed.
"Los Angeles Unified did not want a strike," a district statement said. "Los Angeles Unified remains committed to contract negotiations and will continue to work around the clock to find solutions to end the strike, which will hurt students, families and communities most in need throughout Los Angeles."
The schools are being staffed with a mix of volunteers, substitute teachers, nurses, librarians and counselors. At 10 schools, non-teaching employees will join in the strike in sympathy, which could make serving lunch and other functions difficult.
One administrative assistant got a hard time as she drove in to work.
"Come on!" said Spanish teacher Adrian Arellano.
"I'm an administrator," the woman said as she drove past. "I'm with ya'll, but we got to go to work."
Arellano said he's going on strike because his classes have 46 students in them, which is too high.
The district, the second-largest in the United States, is on the brink of financial insolvency, the union said.
The last time the district went on strike was in 1989. That strike lasted about nine days.
A group of education leaders in Los Angeles said it's concerned about competition from non-union charter schools.
"We all agree that teachers deserve fair wages and benefits, as well as manageable class sizes; that students deserve additional supports such as nurses, librarians and counselors; and that these challenges disproportionately affect our low-income students," the group said in a statement. "We urge Gov. [Gavin] Newsom to intervene now and help find a solution, and to increase funding for public education, building on initial investments he has proposed in his first budget."
"We're in a battle for the soul of public education," said UTLA President Alex Pearl-Caputo.
"This crisis cannot be solved by the Los Angeles Unified School District alone," United For Education added. "We urge the teachers union and the school district to reach an agreement and avert a strike -- and to put their collective efforts toward securing resources for our teachers and students without devastating the finances of the district. This must include resolving the issue of the district's unsustainable pension liabilities."