Oakland teachers officially on strike Thursday; schools are still in session

OAKLAND — Oakland teachers are set to go on strike Thursday for the second time in two school years after union representatives and the Oakland Unified School District failed to agree on a deal at the bargaining table on Wednesday.

The Oakland Educators Association, which represents about 3,000 of the city’s teachers and school staff, said in a news release Wednesday night that the schools’ administrators promised to present a contract proposal at 5 p.m. Wednesday but failed to show up.

At 9 p.m., the district announced that the teachers would strike beginning Thursday for the second time in two school years after a one-day strike on April 29, 2022.

“OEA’s bargaining team of 50 educators from across Oakland Unified had planned to work through the night – if the other side showed up. Our goal was and still is to reach a contract settlement that serves our students and supports educators,” said special education teacher and Oakland Education Association Interim President Ismael Armendariz in a news release.  “But, our members have been clear that without an agreement a strike would begin the morning of May 4. Apparently, the District also wants a strike. They got one. Educators will be on picket lines outside their schools and not in their classrooms in the morning.”

All Oakland schools will remain open Thursday in an untraditional matter, the district announced in a news release. Office staff will “educate and supervise” the district’s approximate 34,000 students across more than 80 schools in classrooms and principals will have access to “appropriate instructional plans,” the district says.

School-provided meals will still be served Thursday and all students that do not attend classes will be given an “excused absence,” according to the district.

“While we do not know how long the strike will last, we continue to bargain with OEA in an effort to reach an agreement,” the district said in a statement. “The end of the school year is always filled with milestone events for our students, so we want to ensure regular school resumes as soon as possible.”

The district’s latest proposal was a 10% retroactive raise for OES members, a one-time bonus of $5,000 as well as salary bumps ranging from 13% to 22% going into next school year. With such a raise, first-year teachers would see their salaries jump from $52,905 to $63,604, while veteran teachers’ salaries would increase from $94,314 to $109,746. Counselors, psychologists and school nurses would also see their salaries bumped, with increases of nearly $10,000, $13,000 and $8,000 respectively.

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Union representatives said it insisted the district paid its employees a more suitable livable wage, as it says Oakland’s teachers are the lowest paid in the Bay Area. The union also wants more resources dedicated to students with special needs, mental health support and further investments in Historically Black Community Schools.

Representatives from the school district, including Board of Education President Mike Hutchinson and Superintendent Dr. Kyla Johnson-Trammell, announced they will speak and take questions from the media at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Picketing begins at 7:30 a.m. outside of all OUSD schools and the district’s central administration building, according to a statement from the union. A rally was scheduled for noon at the Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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