Margarita Mercado has been working in the Los Angeles Unified School District for nearly 30 years and on Thursday, her final day of picketing, she said was one of her proudest days.
Mercado said her son, 12 year-old Adam Martinez, and her daughter, 11-year-old Daisy Martinez, said they wanted to attend the picket with their mom. She agreed, on one condition — they had to wake up to be at Langdon Avenue Elementary School in North Hills by 6:30 a.m.
“They said, ‘Mom, we want to go,’ and I was like, ‘You kids have school,’ and they said, ‘No, Mom, we want to go and make a difference,’” said Mercado. “I’m like, ‘If you wake up, we’ll go. If not, I’m going.’ I mean, they just got dressed like it was 8 o’clock in the morning. They really wanted to go.”
Mercado said her co-workers teased her about making her kids come, but she replied saying, “I didn’t make them, they wanted to come.” Both of her children go to school at Rosedell North and she said her children have always been very supportive of those who work in education.
“We were picketing outside of my school, which is Langdon Avenue Elementary, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Then I just rushed them so they can come to school here,” said Mercado. “My kids are very passionate about what’s right and being supportive to other workers who are not getting what they deserve.”
On Tuesday, the union representing the district’s custodians, bus drivers, maintenance workers and other employees — Service Employees International Union Local 99 — organized a three-day walkout, which ended on Thursday. L.A. Mayor Karen Bass has acted as a mediator during the negotiations.
The school district has offered a pay increase of 23%, which fell short of what the union was asking for — a 30% raise, according to Mercado.
On Tuesday, LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho issued a statement on the status of the negotiations.
“I understand our employees’ frustration that has been brewing, not just for a couple of years, but probably for decades. And it is on the basis of recognizing historic inequities that we have put on the table a historic proposal,” read Carvalho’s statement. “This offer addresses the needs and concerns from the union, while also remaining fiscally responsible and keeping the district in a financially stable position.”
Mercado said that while the strike was short-lived, if necessary, she’ll be back out there if another one is called for.