School bus drivers who transport L.A. Unified School District students returned to their routes on March 24 following a three-day strike. Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99 walked out of their school district jobs to strike, shuttering the nation's second-largest school system.

What the Employees Wanted

Union members pushed for a 30% pay hike, plus an additional $2 per hour for the lowest paid workers, according to the L.A. Times. Last Friday, the district presented a 19% ongoing increase over three years and a one-time 5% bonus for those who worked in the 2020-21 school year. That did not stop the union members from staging a walkout.

Local 99, a 30,000-member union, which represents employees spanning from bus drivers to teacher's aids, food servers, janitors, and more, held a strike at Los Angeles State Historic Park. The group was joined by some 30,000 teachers who were there in solidarity.

Bus drivers marched in front of the district's bus yards.

According to the L.A. Times, average pay for the Local 99 unit that includes bus drivers is $31,825.

No new contract came out of the walkout. KABC reported that L.A. Mayor Karen Bass has been facilitating discussions between the sides, but it was unclear if the talks were materializing into contract negotiations. Max Arias, president of SEIU Local 99, issued a statement supporting the mayor's involvement.

On Friday, the district released a statement saying, "As students and employees return to schools today, Los Angeles Unified officials continue to be in conversation with SEIU Local 99 leaders.

We remain hopeful that we will reach an equitable agreement that recognizes the hard work of our employees and maintains the financial stability of the District. We know that our students, families, and employees are counting on us to reach a resolution. We will keep you updated."

The union responded to the statement, saying, "Today, let’s show our support for our hard working LAUSD bargaining team as they continue to pursue a fair contract. It’s time for L.A. Schools to stop talking about reaching an “equitable agreement” and start making it happen. We are tired of living in poverty. We’ve had enough."

The district also released details on its $4.9 billion in reserves, pointing to an independent auditor's January 2023 report stating that the reserves have little flexibility. Many of them are one-time funds from COVID-19 relief. Much of the funding can legally only be used for student services like after-school programming and learning recovery, funding to support the district's highest need schools and students, state-required general fund reserves, and an inventory of prepaid items like school supplies.

The district provided students with meals and other services during the strike. City and county parks departments organized daylong activities and supervision for students as well.