Oakland teachers’ strike enters sixth day, with demand of a 12% wage hike

The teachers’ union outrightly rejected the district school board’s proposal for 8% wage hike, and forced the board to postpone a decision on further fund cuts and layoffs

February 28, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Oakland Teachers Strike

On February 27, on the fifth day of strike, the Oakland teachers shut down a Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) board meeting which was intended to approve further cuts in funds for education in the school district. In the aftermath of the protest, the OUSD reportedly postponed the decision on whether to make a nearly USD 22 million cut to the 2019-20 budget, as well as on eliminating central office staff, foster youth case managers, restorative-justice program coordinators and school site security officers.

The district authorities offered a wage hike of up to 8% and a 2% increase in bonuses. But the Oakland Education Association (OEA) rejected the proposal and reiterated their demand for a 12% increase in wages. It was also reported that the OEA criticized the OUSD board for publicly declaring their offer for wage hike rather than proposing it at the negotiating table. On Thursday, the teachers struck work for the sixth consecutive work day, making it the longest strike in the recent history of the school district.

A large number of public, including students and parents, rendered their solidarity to the striking teachers. American novelist Alice Walker also expressed solidarity with the teachers and said, “To me, teachers are the most important people, next to parents, on earth. It is you who are given the responsibility to instruct our children, which means, in effect, that it is you who are given the responsibility to shape our society, our country and our world. For this responsibility, so unimaginably heavy, you should be given, really, anything you ask for. It is criminal that you are not.”

Teachers in Oakland, California went on strike on February 21, demanding significant pay rise, smaller classrooms and student support from the OUSD management of Oakland public schools. The OEA, which represents around 2,300 public school teachers, gave the call for strike after 18 months of unfruitful negotiations with the OUSD authorities. The demands include a 12% increase in wages, more nurses, counselors and support staff, as well as increased overview of chartered schools, among others.

Over the past year, teachers in many US States have gone on strike, seeking better pay, more funds for education and better amenities at schools. Earlier, teachers from Denver and Los Angeles won an increase in basic pay after going on strike. After two weeks of work stoppage, teachers in Chicago also reached an agreement with the authorities. Strikes have taken place in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona and Washington, among others. Earlier this month, the teachers of Los Angeles went on strike and won 6% wage hike.

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