Oakland teachers vote to authorize strike for smaller class sizes, fair wages

Teachers and students from Oakland High School protest an impasse in contract negotiations on last month. (Aric Crabb/Bay Area News Group)

Feb 4, 2019
Oakland teachers have voted by an overwhelming margin of 95 percent to 5 percent to authorize a strike, union leader Keith Brown announced at a boisterous news conference at Oakland Technical High School on Monday.

Brown, the president of the Oakland Education Association, said no strike date has been set yet because the union and the Oakland Unified School District are still awaiting a report that’s expected to be issued by Feb. 15 by a state-appointed neutral fact-finder who is tasked with helping to resolve the contract negotiations. The report is non-binding.

Brown said that unless the school district moves significantly from its current position, “We expect to be on strike by the end of the month.” Brown said the teachers’ union is asking for smaller class sizes, living wages for educators and additional student resources that educators are fighting for, including more counselors and school nurses.

Contract talks between the school district and the union, which represents 3,000 educators, have been going on for about a year and a half. The union is asking for a 12 percent raise over three years while the district is offering a 5 percent pay hike. Oakland teachers have noted that the last time they went on strike in 1996 it lasted for more than two months.

Brown said the 95 percent of teachers voting to authorize going on strike is the highest ever for the union. He also said the 84 percent participation rate is the highest ever. Teachers voted last Tuesday through last Friday.

“This is a clear message that our teachers are ready to strike for our students and for a living wage.”

Keith Brown, President of the Oakland Education Association

Oakland school district officials said Monday that they hope they can reach an agreement with the union that causes the least disruption to students’ lives.

School district officials said they support a wage increase for employees, but they must work within the district’s financial reality.

The school district faces a projected $30 million budget deficit, which forced the officials to decide to close Roots International Academy at the end of this school year.

The district plans to close or merge up to 24 schools over five years.

Monday, in a statement, school district Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel said, “We believe that our teachers deserve a fair wage, and we are doing everything we can to find a solution.”

“We will continue to advocate for more funding from the state and find a way to compensate our teachers fairly.”

Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel

The union said it will conduct a rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday. It said hundreds of educators will urge the City Council to adopt a resolution on its agenda that night supporting teachers and opposing school closures.

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