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Classes are resuming in the Los Angeles Unified School District after a strike

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Students return to class today in Los Angeles. A walkout by service workers is over, contract talks are not. So no raise yet for our next guest, Yolanda Reed, who's spent the last three days on the picket lines. She's a part-time special education assistant at Hamilton High School. Welcome to the program.

YOLANDA REED: Thank you.

INSKEEP: What were the last few days like for you?

REED: Very overwhelming and exciting and impressive, honestly.

INSKEEP: What do you mean by impressive? This is when you're out on the picket lines. Is that what you mean?

REED: Yes. It was very impressive to see how many people came out in supported, how many parents, How many students, How many teachers. It was beautiful.

INSKEEP: Were you standing on the picket lines outside of Hamilton High? And you're saying the students who were not in school, the parents who were affected in some way, the teachers who honored the picket lines, a lot of them came by to say hi?

REED: They actually stood out there the whole time with us in the rain and picketed - the parents, the students and the teachers.

INSKEEP: Do you feel that you made your point?

REED: Yes, I really do.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about what the purpose was here. It was, as some people who've listened to this program will know, a three-day strike. It was planned to be three days. You weren't going until there was a contract, a three-day strike. And it was hoped that that would affect negotiations with the LA school district. What have you heard from that side of things?

REED: Well, honestly, we did receive an email last night stating that they were in talks all day yesterday. And they did not come up with a solution yet, but they will continue conversation today.

INSKEEP: A couple of numbers here will remind people that your union, if I'm not mistaken, is seeking a 30% raise over several years. How would that affect your life?

REED: Yes, that would affect my life. I would have more time to spend with my kids and family. I wouldn't have to work four jobs. I could drop one of those. And just more security more than anything.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. You work four jobs right now?

REED: Yes.

INSKEEP: You're a part-time special education assistant at Hamilton High. What are the other three jobs?

REED: In-home service where I care for elderly people. I do hair and makeup. And I have an online boutique.

INSKEEP: Well, first, thank you for taking care of so many people. Thank you.

REED: Of course. My pleasure. I love it.

INSKEEP: Second, what is your hourly wage right now?

REED: My hourly wage right now is somewhere around $28 an hour. I think it's a little less like between 25 and $28 an hour.

INSKEEP: And about how many hours a week generally?

REED: About 30 to 35 hours a week.

INSKEEP: Oh, OK. So that is not quite a part - well, is a part-time job, but it's a most-of-the-way-to-the-full-time kind of job.

REED: Right. It's real close to full time.

INSKEEP: So you're saying you received an email that the union and the school district are negotiating. That's something that was not happening before the strike. My understanding is the schools were submitting offers to the union. The union wasn't even responding. Is that making you optimistic, then?

REED: Yes. I'm very optimistic right now.

INSKEEP: Whatever happens with the contract talks, you mentioned that scene at the school, at the picket line with people standing with you. Do you feel that you've gained more respect or at least been informed about how much respect you have?

REED: Yes. I feel like we've gained more respect. And I feel like a big secret is out there about how much money we've been making all this time, and that is not that much money.

INSKEEP: Looking forward to getting back to school today?

REED: Yes, always looking forward to being with the kids.

INSKEEP: OK. Yolanda Reed is a member of the School Service Employees Union in Los Angeles. Thanks for your time.

REED: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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