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Oakland Teachers And Dockworkers Fight For Their Community

Oakland, California – On April 29, thousands of teachers, students and parents from Schools and Labor Against Privatization (SLAP) rallied at Oscar Grant Plaza next to City Hall in Oakland, California, then marched to the Port of Oakland where they held a picket line that shut the port down.

The innovative joint labor action was an historic day in the campaign led by SLAP, union teachers of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, against racist gentrification in Oakland.

Local 10 honored the picket line with a stop-work action in solidarity with the teachers and community to fight the privatization and destruction of the port and Oakland’s public school system engineered by billionaire John Fisher.

Fisher is an heir to The Gap fortune, a real-estate developer and owner of the Oakland A’s baseball team. He also owns a charter school and acts as a national spokesperson for school privatization under the guise of charter schools.

One-day strike

Oakland educators called a one-day unfair labor practice strike on April 29 after the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) failed to follow its 2019 agreement with OEA to engage with families when considering closing schools.

Despite widespread outcry from families, including legal action filed by the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of the Justice for Oakland Students Coalition, 11 schools are scheduled to close by the end of next year – three this year and eight the following year.

OUSD has a history of closing schools in predominantly Black and Brown communities. In the past 15 years, OUSD has closed 16 majority-Black schools, upending communities and pushing more than 18,000 Black students out of the district since 1996.

“Let’s be clear – educators don’t want to strike, but we are because OUSD has forced us to fight to protect the schools our Black and Brown students deserve,” said union President Keith Brown. “Rather than putting their resources towards unilaterally closing schools, OUSD should be acting as a respected governing body of learning and walking the walk to support the future of Oakland’s families.”

Watch a report of the day’s actions by Steve Zeltzer of the LaborVideo Project.

Widespread opposition

Preceding the one-day strike, trade unionists from OEA, ILWU Local 10, Service Employees Local 1021, and Steel Workers Local 5 held a joint press conference next to the Howard Terminal in the Port of Oakland to voice opposition to Fisher’s plan to privatize the terminal and build a new stadium, a sky-box hotel and 3,000 luxury condos.

Other organizations engaged in building a united labor and community front against privatization in the Bay Area include ILWU Local 6, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 21, University Professional & Technical Employees, and the All City Council student union.

Billionaire Fisher’s stadium privatization deal and a giveaway of $850 million in taxpayer money for the project is supported by Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Oakland City Council and the Alameda Labor Council, led by the conservative Alameda Building Trades.

Opposition to Fisher’s gentrification scheme won ground on March 16 when the Seaport Planning Advisory Committee, in a 5-4 vote, recommended that the 55-acre Howard Terminal property be used only for Port of Oakland activities, not as the site of a 35,000-seat ballpark surrounded by a planned village of 3,000 housing units, offices, retail, hotel rooms and parks.

Angela Davis spoke at this year’s San Francisco May Day rally as an honorary member of ILWU Local 10. Davis denounced Fisher’s stadium gentrification as a project which would destroy the working Port of Oakland and part of the privatization of public areas. She joined the ILWU contingent at the head of the march.

Zeltzer of the LaborVideo Project reports there were also solidarity greetings from the Japanese railway workers’ union Doro-Chiba, fired leaders of the Mineworkers Union Of Namibia Rössing branch, and Partido Obrera/Workers Party in Argentina.

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