OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike in the midst of a stalemate in contract negotiations, officials announced Monday afternoon.
The announcement was made by union leader Keith Brown at a boisterous news conference at Oakland Technical High School. Brown said that membership had voted 95 percent in favor of a strike.
Teachers cast their votes to authorize the strike last week. The strike authorization follows two non-union sanctioned sick outs staged in protest during contract negotiations that have ground to a halt.
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Since 2017, the teachers union has been without a contract. Educators are asking for higher wages, smaller class sizes and other school resources.
The union is asking for a 12 percent raise over three years while the district is offering a 5 percent pay hike.
Brown said that unless the school district moves significantly from its current position, “We expect to be on strike by the end of the month.”
84 percent of Oakland Education Association members participated in the vote on the strike.
“This is a clear message that our teachers are ready to strike for our students and for a living wage,” said Brown.
Teachers say they can’t afford to keep teaching, leaving students with a compromised education lead by classroom rookies.
“If we can’t attract and retain teachers and give them decent working conditions that would convince them to come here and stay, then my students have inexperienced classroom teachers every year,” said special education teacher Bethany Myer.
The Oakland Unified School District said after learning of the authorization that there was some indication that teachers were going to vote to go on strike, so district officials were not surprised.
The district said they are hopeful they can come to an agreement with the teachers.
Currently both sides are in the middle of a fact-finding gathering with a report scheduled to be put together for both sides on February 15th. There are no plans for the district and the union to meet before that report is released.
District spokesperson John Sasaki said if there is a strike, it would most likely happen around the third week of February.
The district is not sure how much time teachers would have to give before they walk out.
Monday, in a statement, school district Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel said, “We believe that our teachers deserve a fair wage, and we are doing everything we can to find a solution.”
“We will continue to advocate for more funding from the state and find a way to compensate our teachers fairly,” she said.
Oakland teachers have noted that the last time they went on strike in 1996 it lasted for more than two months.
“I don’t think they’re prepared for whats to come,” said Oakland teacher Chaz Garcia. “I think that while they want the best for students, they don’t realize that the teachers and educators in this district are ready to lay it all on the line to fight for what our students deserve.”
Garcia said she was prepared to walk the picket line for an extended period.
“I’ve kinda prepared myself for five weeks, but as long as it takes,” said Garcia. “I’m preparing myself for five weeks.”
The union said it also will conduct a rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The strike authorization comes as the district plans on shutting down a dozen schools to close a $30 million budget deficit.