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Oakland Teachers Inch Closer to Strike

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By Nevin Long

Teachers in Oakland are preparing to walk off the job.

The contents of a district fact-finding report, to be released on Friday, will prove the deciding factor in whether or not some 3,000 members of the Oakland Education Association, the union representing Oakland Unified School District’s teachers, decide to go on strike.

At a community forum held at Laney College on Tuesday, OEA president and Bret Harte Middle School teacher Keith Brown expressed reluctance to strike, but was confident that his union’s members would be successful if they did. A Feb. 4 vote to authorize a strike saw a 95 percent majority vote in favor with a turnout of 85 percent.

Teacher Cole Margen, left, joins fellow teachers and students from Oakland High School to take part in a walkout to protest an impasse in contract negotiations on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, in Oakland, Calif. Photo courtesy of Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group

Teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017 and list poor pay, deteriorating working conditions and swollen class sizes among their grievances. Recent announcements of school closures have raised further ire across the district, and Brown says the union plans to “force bargaining on school closures.”

Up to 24 schools in Oakland Unified may be on the chopping block. The board already voted Jan. 29 to close Roots International Academy in East Oakland, which shares its Havenscourt campus with Coliseum College Preparatory Academy, a charter school.

District officials plan to allow CCPA to expand its programs once Roots shutters.

Parents and community members plan to stage a protest outside Roots Friday morning. Parents United for Public Schools issued a guide for parents and guardians who wish to support teachers and need to prepare for the impact of a potential strike.  

For its part, Oakland Unified’s board said the cuts are necessary to remedy a budget deficit which could reach $56 million by the 2020-21 school year.

Last Wednesday, the district posted a Craigslist ad seeking substitute teachers at the rate of $300 per day should the union opt to strike, nearly three times the usual rate of $113, or around $900,000 per day to replace all district faculty.

Craigslist ad for emergency temporary teachers during potential Oakland, Calif. teachers strike, which could begin by the end of February 2019. Screenshot courtesy of Craigslist

Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents district support staff, is organizing a joint action at Wednesday’s regular board meeting. 

OEA will make its final decision regarding a strike over the weekend and announce its plans at a press conference Monday.

We will provide updates as this story progresses.

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Nevin Long

Nevin Long

Nevin Long is a writer-reporter, film critic, and East Bay resident since 2009. When he's not slogging it in the rain after a mass demonstration he's writing about, he enjoys spending time with his wife and son, reading contemporary fiction, or kicking back and watching a movie so obscure not even the director's mother has heard of it.