Los Angeles’ hot labor summer will get a little more heated Tuesday morning, when thousands of Los Angeles city workers plan to walk off the job for a 24-hour strike. Tuesday’s action would be the first major city worker strike in at least 15 years.
SEIU Local 721, a union representing county and city employees across Southern California, said that more than 11,000 Los Angeles city workers will participate, including sanitation workers, heavy duty mechanics, traffic officers and engineers.
The city work stoppage comes amid a frenzy of organized labor activity in Los Angeles and across the country, including the first simultaneous strike of Hollywood writers and actors since 1960. Los Angeles and Orange County hotel workers have also engaged in intermittent work stoppages since contracts expired for more than 15,000 hotel workers at some 60 properties.
The union said employees are staging an unfair labor practices strike because the city failed to bargain with their members in good faith and also engaged in labor practices that restricted employee and union rights.
“City workers are vital to the function of services for millions of Angelenos every day and to our local economy. They deserve fair contracts and we have been bargaining in good faith with SEIU 721 since January,” Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement Friday evening. “The City will always be available to make progress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The strike will likely create some degree of disruption at Los Angeles International Airport, the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles City Hall and other locations, with picketing expected at dozens of other sites, including the Griffith Observatory, according to the union.
Local 721 said their membership also includes more than a thousand airport workers, including custodians, mechanics and shuttle drivers. Most port workers are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, but SEIU 721 represents about 300 port workers, including tugboat captains.
An LAX spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about how the strike might affect airport operations. Port spokesperson Phillip Sanfield said he couldn’t comment on possible disruption at the port because he wasn’t sure how many people would be participating in the strike. The city Department of Public Works, which oversees sanitation and other services, did not immediately respond to questions.
The union ratified a one-year agreement with the city in November 2022 with the understanding that they would return to the bargaining table immediately after the winter holidays, said SEIU Local 721 Chief of Staff Gilda Valdez. With the broader agreement in place for the next year, the city and the union would then negotiate over a number of “specials,” or smaller specific proposals, Valdez said.
But the city “reneged on their promise to negotiate on these issues,” Valdez said. The union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the City of Los Angeles Employee Relations Board over this issue, along with claims filed over several other issues in recent months.
“We’re not going to tolerate unfair labor practices during bargaining or at all. We’re fed up,” Valdez said, noting that the union’s members had worked throughout the pandemic to keep the city running. “We have to send a very strong message to the city.”
The union plans to return to the bargaining table with the city the week of August 14 to begin negotiations on the successor contract to the one-year agreement signed in November 2022. That new contract will be bargained in tandem with the “specials” that remain on the table from the beginning of the year, Valdez said.