Oakland teachers on today's strike
Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District held a one-day strike today, protesting stalled contract negotiations. More than 100 district schools were affected, though classes remained in session with substitutes and office workers teaching students who didn’t take the day off. A message on the district’s hotline appealed to parents to send their kids to school, despite the walkout.
The teachers union and the board of education have been negotiating a new contract for nearly two years. The union is asking for a 15% raise over the next three years. Last week, the board approved an interim contract that froze salaries. Financial shortfalls are forcing Oakland Unified to cut $85 million from its budget - that’s up to a quarter of its operating expenses.
We spoke with teachers and students in the district about how they felt about the impasse:
HARRY PASTERNACK: Hi, my name is Harry Pasternack of Oakland Tech. I teach ninth grade California Studies and twelfth grade American Government.
AMELIA REYES: My name is Amelia Reyes.
JACORI NIX-BOWERS: My name is Jacori Nix-Bowers.
CLARENCE HARRIS: Clarence Harris.
ELIZABETH HAUGEN: I’m Elizabeth Huggin. I teach at Oakland Tech, and I teach AP U.S. History. My students’ test is a week from Friday, so this is the absolute worst possible time for me not to have a day with my students, but I can’t imagine not going on strike.
PASTERNACK: They have decided to impose a contract on us, which essentially gives us 0% raise after six years. It would increase class size...
REYES: Increasing classroom sizes and keeping payment the same—I don’t know in what world that’s okay.
HARRIS: To me, it’s a symbolic strike.
NIX-BOWERS: I think this will be a big impact, but we also have to remember that this is going to be for one day.
HARRIS: I don’t like that kind of stuff. You go out, the district will think, “Okay, it’s a day. I don’t care.” They save a lot of money, I lose a day’s pay. Friday it will be business as usual.
Because if I was a superintendent, that’s the way I would treat it! “One day? I can ride that out.” If I’m the school board, “I can ride that out. Big deal! You know, they’ll be back in the classroom, doing what you want them to do, and they’ll be mad, but we’ll treat them like the kids. We treat them like kids all the time, and they’ll eat it, they’ll accept it.”
And we will. We’ll be right back in the classroom doing the best we can, and maybe talking about this in the fall. I believe in strikes when necessary, but if you’re going to go out on strike, go out on strike.
These interviews were conducted by KALW's Nancy Mullane. The district’s new superintendent, Tony Smith, has requested a meeting with the union to restart contract negotiations.