Oakland Educators Authorize Strike

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Above Photo:  by Mike Myslinski

95% vote to strike for smaller class size, student support and living wage

Oakland educators are ready to walk off the job and onto the picket line to fight for smaller class sizes, more student support and a living wage, following a strike authorization vote that saw a whopping 95 percent of Oakland teachers vote to strike if necessary and 84 percent of members casting ballots.

The announcement came Monday afternoon after a fruitless, two-day fact-finding meeting last week, during which Oakland Education Association (OEA) called Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) management of Oakland public schools “educational malpractice.” The vote allows OEA leaders to call a strike, if necessary, to win smaller class sizes, living wages for educators and additional support resources that students need—including more counselors and school nurses for the district’s 37,000 students.

“This is a clear message that our members are ready to fight for the schools our students deserve,” said OEA President Keith Brown. “This powerful vote is a mandate for smaller class size, more student support and living wage. It is a mandate to keep our neighborhood schools open and not shut down our schools.”

OEA will rally Tuesday, Feb. 5, at Frank Ogawa Plaza immediately prior to the Oakland City Council meeting, where hundreds of educators will urge the city council to adopt a resolution supporting teachers and opposing school closures (click on “view report” to see the full resolution). OUSD plans to close or merge as many as 24 schools over five years.

Oakland educators will now wait for the non-binding, fact-finding report, which is expected Feb. 15, the same day as a planned #RedForEd Statewide Day of Action in support of OEA and their fight to defend Oakland schools (check out the #RedForEd digital toolkit for ways to share your support on social media). After the report is issued, the 3,000 members of OEA can legally strike.

Brown said that no strike date has been set, but without a serious proposal by the school district, OEA expects to be on strike by the end of the month.

“If the school board won’t act, we will act,” Brown said. “Instead of watching 600 teachers leave OUSD year after year, all of us are going to leave all at once and we won’t come back until the school board agrees to smaller class size, more student support and a living wage!”

Oakland educators are fighting to end the district’s teacher retention crisis—over the past 12 years, an average of 18.7 percent of Oakland teachers left the district every year. Starting pay for beginning Oakland teachers is about $46,000 while the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Oakland is $3,191. This while OUSD spends nearly double the state average on administrators’ salaries.

OEA’s fact-finding presentation illustrating the issues facing Oakland educators and public schools is available here, and ongoing updates will be posted on the OEA website, Facebook and Twitter.

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