OAKLAND, Calif. — Teachers walked off the job here Feb. 21, almost two years after their last contract expired. The 3,000 Oakland Education Association members are fighting for a 12 percent wage increase over three years, for school district officials to hire more support workers like speech pathologists and counselors, for an end to school closures, and for a reduction in class sizes.
Oakland Unified School District officials now offer an 8.5 percent pay hike over four years. Wages for school workers in Oakland are the lowest in the area.
Other school workers, including many organized by the Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are honoring the picket lines.
The strike has won widespread support from working people in the area — only a few of Oakland’s 36,000 public school students showed up at the city’s 86 schools when the pickets went up. Negotiations have broken off.
Picket lines went up at 6:30 a.m. across the city. A high percentage of teachers joined the lines, the union reported. When this Militant correspondent joined the picketing at Castlemont High School, the teachers were marching alongside students, the school nurse, psychologist and other school workers and area supporters.
Some 3,000 teachers, other school workers and their supporters carpooled from the picket lines and elsewhere to protest outside Oakland City Hall at midday and marched to the school district headquarters. Many parents joined the action along with their school-age children. “Keep Teachers in Oakland!” was a popular sign.
The highly paid school district officials have shown no interest in educating working-class youth. They’ve announced plans to close 24 schools, and instead encourage expansion of publicly funded, privately run charter schools.
“In Oakland we have the highest number of special needs students, English-as-a-second language students, African-American students, and Latino students in the East Bay,” David Correa, picket captain at Bret Harte Middle School, told the Militant. “We also have the lowest-paid teachers in the East Bay. It seems to me like there’s a connection between those two facts.”
Because of the low pay, bad working conditions and overcrowded classes, nearly 20 percent of teachers quit each year.