Contract negotiations between teachers’ union the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) collapsed on Monday, and it is now highly likely that city’s 3,000 teachers will strike on Thursday, February 21, shutting down the city’s 87 public schools.
OEA President Keith Brown said the association’s team spent almost 200 hours negotiating with the OUSD and attended seven mediation sessions to resolve their dispute. However, the two sides failed to reach an agreement.
The latest impasse comes after two years of failed negotiations, as the Chronicle reports, and tensions over salaries (which are the lowest in the county) and the planned closure of up to 24 city schools in the next five years — which teachers say serve primarily black and Latinx students.
Oakland parents are now scrambling to arrange childcare for Thursday and beyond, as ABC 7 reports, with some churches and other organizations stepping in to arrange for makeshift classrooms and other solutions.
In a press statement, Brown emphasized that the OUSD told them that it has a new, substantial and comprehensive proposal. But until now, the union has not seen that proposal. He added that the school district “has been delaying for two years” and it is not serious to meet their demands because its negotiators “repeatedly showed up late, unprepared and often unauthorized to reach an agreement.”
In addition to higher salaries and a 12 percent raise retroactive to 2017, the union is also asking the school district to provide more nurses, counselors, and psychologists to schools.
“We have been consistent and clear with the district that we will consider a proposal that dramatically reinvests in our schools,” said Brown.
Separately, during a press conference, Brown said the teachers are hoping for a “short strike,” per the Chron. However, he warned that teachers are willing to get out of the classroom and protest for as long as it takes until the school district meets their demands.
“We don’t want to settle for something that will keep the status quo,” said Brown.
Currently, Oakland teachers who are just starting their profession are receiving a salary of $46,750 annually while the most experienced are getting $83,724 a year. The union argued that Oakland teachers’ wages are the lowest in the Alameda County. The disparity will worsen over the time if the situation remains.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel encouraged Brown and his team to return to the negotiating table. She said, “Despite our challenges, we are prepared with a comprehensive proposal to reach an agreement.” She added that they can reach a settlement without a strike if both parties are committed to settling their disagreement.
On the other hand, OUSD Director of Labor Strategy Jenine Lindsey, who also serves as chief negotiator, sent an e-mail to Brown indicating that her team “considered the fact-finding report, in good faith.” They want to use the report as basis to reaching a settlement agreement. She also told Brown that they are available to return to the table and restart negotiations.
In a tweet on Wednesday, the OEA wrote, “we can’t feed our students’ minds if our schools are starved of qualified teachers and resources. We’ve exhausted all other options. It’s time to strike.”
Separately, the school district’s spokesman, John Sasaki told East Bay Times that negotiators from both parties will meet Wednesday to prevent the strike.
He added that the school district hired substitutes and assigned administrators to teach students in case the strike occurs.
Meanwhile, OUSD principals went to Sacramento today to lobby for more funding for education.
Photo above: GrassValleyOUSD/Twitter