Teaching Profession

‘When We Strike, We Win': Oakland Teachers’ Union Reaches Tentative Deal

By Madeline Will — March 02, 2019 2 min read
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After seven days on strike, the teachers’ union in Oakland, Calif., has reached a tentative agreement with the school district.

And on Sunday, union members voted to ratify the deal, which now goes before the school board for final approval. The district’s 3,000 teachers returned to class on Monday.

The district has agreed to an 11 percent teacher pay raise and a one-time 3 percent bonus once the deal is ratified. Class sizes in high-needs schools will be reduced by one student next year, and all schools will see a one-student reduction in class sizes in the 2021-22 year. The district has also agreed to hire more counselors, resource specialists, psychologists, speech therapists, and support staff for recent immigrant students. School nurses will receive a salary increase in 2021, and a $10,000 bonus this year and next to help with retention.

Also, the president of the district’s board of education agreed to introduce a resolution calling for a five-month pause on school closures and consolidations, as well as more community input into the process. The cash-strapped district had proposed closing up to 24 schools, and had already voted to close one middle school, which sparked outcry from educators and community members.

The board president has also pledged to introduce a resolution calling on the state to stop the growth of charter schools in the city for some period of time. This was modeled after the charter school moratorium that the Los Angeles board of education passed as a result of the teacher strike there in January. In both cities, the teachers’ unions have said that the rise of charter schools has taken away resources from traditional public schools.

See also: Striking Teachers Are Targeting Charter Schools. But Are Charters Really a Threat?

“This is a historic contract with a win in every major proposal we made,” the Oakland Education Association said in a statement. “When we strike, we win.”

About 70 percent of union members cast a ballot on whether to ratify the deal. Some educators urged their peers to vote no on the contract, saying that it didn’t go far enough for Oakland’s teachers and students. Ultimately, 58 percent voted to approve the contract that runs through the 2020-21 school year, and 64 percent voted to approve the retroactive 2017-18 contract.

Schools had remained open during the strike, but according to the Associated Press, just 6 percent of students came to class during the weeklong strike. There are about 36,000 students in the district.

Teachers had gone on strike for a 12 percent raise, among other demands. The union had said teachers in Oakland make less than educators in surrounding areas, and that has led to high turnover rates.

“The contract will help ensure more teachers stay in Oakland and that more come to teach in our classrooms and support our students,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell in a statement.

Oakland was home to the latest teacher strike action this year, following similar actions in Los Angeles, Denver, and across the state of West Virginia. Another city in California might be the next to see teacher activism—Sacramento teachers are voting on whether to authorize a strike for demands that include smaller class sizes and more student supports.

Image: Teachers, students, and supporters rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall in Oakland, Calif. —Jeff Chiu/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.