Reich, Thurmond set to get involved with Oakland teacher strike

Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Schools, and Robert Reich, Berkeley professor of Public Policy. and former US Sec'y of Labor

Feb 24, 2019 – Oakland teachers are enlisting the help of some star power Monday in their efforts to secure a contract agreement, with both state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and onetime U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich lined up to support teachers.

Thurmond is expected to join negotiators from both the Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Education Association Monday morning, according to Chaz Garcia, second vice president of the OEA, speaking on a live social media feed Sunday night. This will be a formal bargaining session, and Thurmond is expected to meet with both sides in the stalemate. “We’ll see if he can help the district understand how they can do things differently,” Garcia said.

As for Reich, he is scheduled to be the main speaker at a 12:30 p.m. rally at Oscar Grant Plaza at the corner of 14th and Washington Streets in downtown Oakland. Reich is now is a chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

OEA leaders said they will maintain picket lines at all district schools Monday from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m., and may resume picketing from 2:30 to 4 p.m. “if necessary top keep schools shut down.”

Contract negotiations between the school district and the teachers’ union broke down on Sunday after about an hour.

There had been no talks on Saturday. “We support our OEA members and are doing everything we can to give them a contract that provides them with a livable wage to help them thrive in Oakland. But these are very tight financial times for OUSD,” said OUSD Board President Aimee Eng in a statement Sunday night.

Everyone knows we have a structural budget deficit, including the fact-finding committee, the Alameda County Office of Education and the state Department of Education.

OUSD Board President Aimee Eng

“While we want to give the teachers all that they ask for, our financial limitations prevent us from doing that,” Eng added.

OEA is asking for a 12 percent pay raise over three years. The district is offering an 8.5 percent increase over four years. While the district offer has increased since negotiations started, Garcia said it still isn’t enough for teachers, or students. “You can’t feed their minds if they’re starving our schools,” she said.

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