OAKLAND (CBS SF) – After another long day of negotiations, it appeared that union representatives with Oakland teachers and the school district remained at an impasse Monday night.
If anything, tensions may be mounting. Monday evening, Oakland Education Association union President Keith Brown lashed out at district officials.
In a statement, Brown accused union officials of “lies and misinformation” for allegedly implying “that significant movement has happened since the strike began. This is untrue.”
As of late Monday night, teachers were saying a fourth day of walking picket lines at Oakland schools seemed all but certain, even as the negotiations continued.
Earlier Monday, Oakland teachers enlisted the help of some star power in their efforts to secure a contract agreement, with both state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and onetime U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich offering their to support teachers.
About 1,000 teachers and their supporters gathered in front of Oakland City Hall for a boisterous midday rally where Reich spoke.
Reich, who’s now a chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, questioned the Oakland Unified School District’s assertion that it can’t afford to give teachers the 12 percent raise over three years that they are seeking.
“When people in power say that they can’t afford it, what they mean is either they don’t care or they’re not going to work hard to get the resources necessary,” Reich said.
Reich told the teachers that by going on strike, “What you are doing is bringing attention to a fundamental injustice, a fundamental imbalance in power.”
Reich alleged that school district officials “don’t want to stand up for the children of Oakland.”
He said, “Not only is that unjust, it is cowardice.”
Some young students from OUSD didn’t spend their lunchtime in a cafeteria at school but at a Michael Viola and Suzanne Schmidt’s Oakland home . It’s just one of many solidarity safe school sites.
Michael Viola has two children in the OUSD.
“It’s been a task in the sense of we are doing all this plus we are also working too.“ said Viola.
His wife Suzanne Schmidt adds, “It’s been hectic – we just want the teachers to get this thing resolved so we can get the teachers back in the classroom.“
At a briefing Sunday night, teachers explained why negotiations have reached a stalemate.
“I love the students here in Oakland and I am a part of Oakland, but I need my district to stand with me and keep me here in Oakland,” said teacher Katherine Gibson.
The teachers’ strike began on Thursday after two years of failed negotiations between the union and the school district and is the first multi-day walkout by Oakland teachers since 1996, when they went on strike for more than two months.
More On 1996 Oakland Teachers Strike
- Coverage Of 1996 Oakland Teachers Strike
- 1996: Salary Gap Huge Between Oakland Teachers, Administrators
The district previously offered a 5 percent raise over three years but last week made a new offer of 8.5 percent over four years.
However, Keith Brown, the president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents the teachers, has said that’s still not enough to meet the union’s demand for a living wage that addresses the high cost of living in Oakland.
The school district said in a statement that the union hasn’t changed its bargaining position in response to its revised offer and has maintained its same proposal on the primary issues in the talks since May 2018.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond joined the contract talks on Monday when negotiations between the district and the union resumed.
“We want to get the strike resolved quickly so teachers and students can be where they want to be — in their classes,” Thurmond said in a statement.
“We met with leaders in Oakland last week and have been in contact since then. My top priority is keeping them at the table to get this resolved,” he said.
“We’re very grateful for the participation of Sup. Tony Thurmond. He’s been amazing,” said Oakland Education Association bargaining team member Patricia Segura.
“He is there helping with this process and being that it wasn’t going anywhere before and talks were ending, clearly his presence is helping,” agreed Chaz Garcia with the OEA.
Brown is also participating in the talks but left them to join the rally at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in front of City Hall.
Brown told the crowd that Thurmond joined the talks “because we needed an adult in the room.”
Brown said the school district “has no credibility because it hasn’t listened to us.”
After the rally ended, teachers and their supporters marched to the nearby Elihu M. Harris State Building at 1515 Clay St., where the contract talks are taking place.
As raindrops began to fall, they chanted, “Every day, rain or shine, we are here to walk the line!”
Teachers in other school districts around the Bay Area are also staying out of work in support of Oakland teachers.
Lizzy Dutton, a teacher at Mission High School in San Francisco, said in a statement that many teachers there “took a sickout for public education to join Oakland educators on the picket line across the Bay Bridge.”
Dutton said Oakland teachers “are fighting for demands that will have ripple effects across the state” and she hopes more teachers will participate in another sickout on Thursday.
Dutton said Thurmond should support Oakland’s teachers because teacher unions were “instrumental” in electing him in the election last November.
The Berkeley Federation of Teachers said that on Tuesday, hundreds of Berkeley teachers, classified staff, and school supporters will take part in a citywide day of action in support of Oakland teachers.
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