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For a 2nd day, a union strike will keep some LA students out of classrooms


More than 400,000 students in Los Angeles are out of school for a second day. Support staff, including bus drivers and teacher's assistants, are on strike. School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho was on NPR's All Things Considered last evening.


ALBERTO CARVALHO: I understand the hurt, which goes back many, many years. We are a new team that, quite frankly, is trying to rectify some degree of historical injustice when it comes to compensation for some of the lowest-wage-earners in our community.

INSKEEP: For the moment though, some of the stress falls on parents and caregivers. NPR's Sequoia Carrillo reports.

SEQUOIA CARRILLO, BYLINE: Parents and students are settling in to Day 2 of LAUSD schools being shut down. There's a picket line at the Gardena bus yard and a news conference at Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, and demonstrations continue at countless schools around the city. But there's no sign of renewed talks by the two sides. Today's rallies will once again be under a steady pour of rain for most of the day. But if yesterday is any indication, the weather won't stop thousands of workers from showing their support for the Service Employees International Union Local 99 and from showing their distaste for the district's superintendent, Alberto Carvalho.


CARRILLO: Crowds are set to descend once more on bus depots, schools, and the district's headquarters. Demonstrators include some of the union's 30,000 members, but also teachers who are standing in solidarity and not crossing the picket line like Rose Kim, a 12th grade teacher at Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.

ROSE KIM: We as teachers already need so much help. And without our TAs, without our campus aides, without our cafeteria workers and bus drivers, like, school wouldn't function the way it does.

CARRILLO: The union is trying to show how critical they are to the operation of schools - jobs that the members feel deserve better wages, better benefits and more help. They're seeking a 30% wage increase over four years, among other things. The district has countered with a 23% increase over five years, but the union isn't budging. Carvalho maintains that such a big raise could bankrupt the district and that looming contract negotiations with the teachers also involve a significant pay raise. The superintendent tweeted yesterday that the district remains ready to resume negotiations. He noted that the pay raise the district has already offered is intended to address historic inequities. But for special education assistant April Moreno, it isn't enough.

APRIL MORENO: It's kind of a slap in the face. Like, OK. You're going to come in working at $18 an hour when people are - in and out are making $21 an hour.

CARRILLO: She's carrying a sign addressing the superintendent as she marches.

MORENO: It just says I eat ramen because of you, Carvalho.

CARRILLO: The low wages have also forced veteran campus aide Jessica Nunez to make sacrifices. She and her children live with multiple roommates. While she's at the demonstration, her kids are at home working on their computers.

JESSICA NUNEZ: How are we going to live with what we make? It's check by check, penny by penny.

CARRILLO: Despite the rain and the conditions, spirits are still mostly high.

NUNEZ: We're going to stay strong. We're going to stay strong.

CARRILLO: Helping to keep the atmosphere light are music teachers and band directors who all came ready to serenade the workers' ongoing fight. The one that drowns out the noise and gets people dancing? A tuba.


CARRILLO: Sequoia Carrillo, NPR News, Los Angeles.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNWED SAILOR'S "WESTERN DIME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sequoia Carrillo is an assistant editor for NPR's Education Team. Along with writing, producing, and reporting for the team, she manages the Student Podcast Challenge.