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California’s Oakland teachers start a strike over wage and social issues

Teachers in Oakland, California’s public schools began walking out on Thursday after contract talks to raise their pay and increase efforts to address social issues fell through, according to the district. The strike is expected to last through Friday.

Schools in the Oakland Unified School District were open to the roughly 34,000 children in the district on Thursday and will remain open during the strike unless otherwise declared, according to district officials, with principals and office employees assisting with their instruction and supervision.

Teachers, counselors, and other workers in Oakland who are part of the second strike in four years are calling for a salary that would raise their earnings to the county median, according to the Oakland Education Association.

On Thursday, protesters erected picket lines in front of Oakland schools and gathered for a rally in front of city hall.

Ismael Armendariz, union president, stated, “Our goal… is to bargain a contract that will help the (district) recruit and retain good teachers and provide our… students with much-needed services.” “We won’t just agree to disagree to get along. Students and instructors should expect rebellion if the district refuses to recognize and meet their pressing needs.

Less than two months have passed since Los Angeles school employees went on a three-day strike in favor of better compensation, more full-time employment, and higher staffing levels. Both work stoppages are part of a recent wave of school strikes that have swept the nation in response to complaints about poor school conditions, inadequate funding, and low pay, among other problems.

There are only three weeks left in the district’s academic year until the strike in Oakland begins. Seven days were involved in the most recent Oakland educators’ strike in 2019.

The district announced that the strike would last through Friday in a statement to parents on Thursday.

The district claims that its pay offer leaves little room for other issues

The district claims that its most recent proposal would provide teachers with an unparalleled raise. All union members would receive a retroactive 10% raise under the proposal, and teachers, in particular, would experience a 13% to 22% increase in pay from this year to the following, in addition to a $5,000 bonus, the district claims.

The district claims that the pay scale increase would enable the most experienced teachers to earn up to $109,746 annually.

The union has stated that it is putting pressure on the district to improve services for students with disabilities, give more mental health care for students recovering from the Covid-19 outbreak, and invest in historically Black community schools.

In addition, the union told the associated press last month that it wanted to use “the district’s excess land” to accommodate homeless pupils.

The superintendent of the district told reporters on Thursday that there aren’t many funds left over to deal with other problems because so much of the budget is devoted to paying teachers enough to keep them on staff.

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell stated, “While we agree with the majority of the guiding principles of the common good, there are many more ways to cooperate with (union) in this area. “We would have preferred to spend the last two days focused on how to best reach an agreement to retain our educators.”

We just cannot accomplish everything as a district, Johnson-Trammell said.

District Labor Director Jenine Lindsey stated that “it will take far more than just the district to have some serious solutions.”

The union asserted that it learned on Thursday that the school board had not given district officials complete authority to negotiate with the union. After seven months of negotiations, getting to this stage has been extremely frustrating, said Vilma Serrano, a member of the union’s executive board, to the associated press.

A district representative directed the associated press to the district’s Thursday evening communication to parents when contacted for comment.

Part of the message deals with the union’s demands regarding social issues.

“It’s crucial to keep in mind that these issues are not required to be discussed during negotiations. We want to talk about these crucial issues, but we want to do it in the appropriate forum, which is a board-led policy discussion,” the note states. “While we acknowledge the significance of the issues raised…, this discussion should not prevent us from reaching an agreement on meaningful pay increases.”

Wednesday night, the district and the union both announced that the teachers’ strike will begin on Thursday. Before the strike, negotiations lasted seven “long days and nights,” according to the district’s statement on Wednesday.

Previously  

Oakland teachers’ strike over pay and social issues happened in February 2019. The Oakland Education Association (OEA) had been negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) for over a year for a new contract to improve teachers’ working conditions, reduce class sizes, increase student support services, and improve teacher pay.

The strike lasted for seven days and affected over 36,000 students across 86 schools in Oakland. The OEA and the OUSD reached a tentative agreement on March 1, 2019, which included an 11% salary increase over three years, a reduction in class sizes, more support staff for schools, and a commitment to address racial disparities in the school system.

Certainly. Teachers in Oakland and other cities across the United States have been striking in recent years to demand better pay and working conditions, as well as increased support for public education. Many educators argue that underfunding and inadequate resources in the public school system have contributed to low student achievement, high teacher turnover, and other problems.

The Oakland teachers’ strike was part of a larger movement of teacher protests and strikes across the United States in 2018 and 2019. In states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, teachers walked out of their classrooms to demand better pay and more funding for schools. These protests drew attention to the chronic underfunding of public education in many states and the need for greater investment in schools and teachers.

The Oakland teachers’ strike highlighted the challenges faced by educators in Oakland and across the United States, as they work to provide quality education while grappling with limited resources, low pay, and systemic inequalities.

Overall, the Oakland teachers’ strike and the broader movement of teacher protests and strikes in recent years have brought attention to the critical role that teachers play in our communities and the need for greater investment in public education.

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