Thousands of municipal workers in Los Angeles are walking off the job for one day on Tuesday to demand that city leaders address widespread staffing shortages that have stretched employees thin. The walkout is expected to snarl a range of city operations, including trash collection and services at Los Angeles International Airport.
Why It Matters
The strike comes amid what California labor leaders have called a “hot labor summer,” during which a wave of walkouts and strikes have been spurred by frustration over wages that they say haven’t kept pace with the sky-high costs of living in Los Angeles and with inflation.
Hollywood writers and actors are on strike together for the first time in decades. Hotel workers across the region have been picketing in waves since the long July 4 weekend.
Labor officials have said that workers in a wide range of fields — crane operators at the port, custodians at public schools and more — understand what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet in a region where housing costs and other living expenses continue to soar.
David Green, the president and executive director of the union that represents the city employees, said that roughly 11,000 workers, including members of other unions, were expected to join picket lines at City Hall, Griffith Observatory and other locations.
The union, Service Employees International Union Local 721, organized the walkout on Tuesday to protest what it considers to be unfair labor practices by the city, Mr. Green said. Contract negotiations broke down in the spring, he said, after the city sent negotiators who were not authorized to close deals. Union members feel that the city is not approaching the staffing crisis with sufficient urgency.
In the city’s sanitation department alone, according to Mr. Green, more than 900 jobs are open and there are scores of additional vacancies in other city departments. He said that the office that processes job applications was also severely understaffed, and that it often took six months or more to respond to applicants, who by then had found other jobs.
“There’s no immediacy,” he said. “But if you’re our members, there’s immediacy — if you’re working mandatory overtime every weekend, if you haven’t seen your family.”
In a statement, the city’s mayor, Karen Bass, said that the city had been bargaining with Local 721 in good faith since January.
“The city will always be available to make progress 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Ms. Bass, a Democrat, said.
Because the city runs Los Angeles International Airport, shuttle bus drivers, bus mechanics and custodians are participating in the one-day strike. City officials said that those headed to the airport should build an extra hour into their travel plans.
All animal shelters were set to be closed to the public on Tuesday, but they will still offer emergency services. Trash pickup was expected to be delayed by a day through the rest of the week, and the city was planning to rely on contractors for sewer-related emergencies.
But Ms. Bass said that many city services were expected to continue largely without interruption, including child care and summer camps.
A bargaining session is scheduled for Monday, a spokesman for the union said. The union’s contract expires at the end of the year.
Jill Cowan is a Los Angeles-based reporter for the National desk covering California. More about Jill Cowan
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