The historic Oakland educators strike came to an end after seven energetic days, when Oakland Education Association (OEA) members ratified the contract during a meeting on Sunday.
More than 70 percent of OEA members turned out to cast ratification ballots, with 64 percent voting to approve the 17/18 contract term and 58 percent to approve the 20/21 term. The ratification ended the seven-day strike where the 3,000 courageous members of OEA stood in unity for Oakland students, inspired a massive community movement and captured the hearts and admiration of supporters nationwide.
“As we return back to the classroom, we have a greater sense of urgency to make sure that our students have the resources they deserve,” OEA President Keith Brown said. “We have a contract that begins to address ending the teacher retention crisis. We have a contract that brings in more resources for our students and more student supports. However, we do realize that the fight does not end with this contract. It is only the beginning.”
OEA won major gains in every key area, laying a solid foundation for the challenging fight ahead to ensure all Oakland students have access to fully funded and properly resourced public schools in their neighborhoods, staffed with committed educators and education support professionals who can afford to live in the communities where they educate kids.
The unity of Oakland educators was on display from Day 1 of the strike when 95 percent of members were out on strike. The solidarity of parents and students bolstered the effort with only 5 percent of students in class on the strike’s first day. With every day of the strike, more educators walked picket lines joined by more parents and community supporters, and less students attended school. By the strike’s final day, only 2 percent of Oakland Unified’s 37,000 students were in class.
Educators and the community converged every day at midday, with rallies featuring civil rights hero Dolores Huerta, comedian W. Kamau Bell, filmmaker and activist Boots Riley, and hip hop musicians Bambu, Zion I and Mistah F.A.B. Thousands marched in the streets to show their support for Oakland educators and the need for quality schools that Oakland students deserve. The showdown between OEA and OUSD also became a battleground between the brave educators fighting for quality public schools for all and the billionaires who want to privatize education and siphon off funds intended for neighborhood public schools.
The community of Oakland stood strong with their educators, with tens of thousands joining picket lines, rallies and supporting in other ways at all 86 district schools. The support of the community was instrumental in the success of the strike, and energized educators to keep fighting.
CTA President Eric Heins, who joined striking educators in Oakland, said OEA’s dedication to each other and their community was inspiring to all 325,000 CTA members.
“Congratulations on ratifying your contract and standing together to make historic gains at the bargaining table,” Heins said. “Thank you to all the teachers and other educators who stood strong on the strike lines. Across California and nationwide, educators followed your seven brave days of power and dedication. We applaud your successful efforts and we will stand with you as you continue the fight for the schools Oakland students deserve. This fight has just begun!”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AGREEMENT
A LIVING WAGE
11-percent salary increase over four years plus a 3-percent bonus upon ratification. OEA forced OUSD to invest in keeping teachers in Oakland, which will give their students experienced teachers in their classrooms. The contract includes substantial increases for substitute teachers, and ties sub pay to the wage scale, so their substitutes never fall behind again.
MORE STUDENT SUPPORTS:
More counselors, RSPs, psychologists, speech pathologists and Newcomer support staff for students, as the contract provides for lower student ratios in each area. The language regarding “Newcomer” students (newly arrived immigrant and refugee students) is the first of its kind in the state. The agreement includes bonuses and a new salary schedule to support nurse recruitment.
LOWER CLASS SIZES:
A one-student reduction in class size at high-needs schools next year. A one-student reduction in class sizes across all schools in 2021-22. OEA forced OUSD to take this step to improve student learning conditions, especially at their highest-needs schools.
SCHOOL CLOSURE MORATORIUM:
OUSD Board President Aimee Eng has committed to introduce a resolution calling for a five-month pause on school closures and consolidations, and more community input into the process.
CHARTER SCHOOL MORATORIUM: Eng has also committed to introduce a resolution calling for a charter school moratorium, similar to the one passed by the LAUSD Board as a result of UTLA’s historic strike.
Featured photo by Joseph Brusky