Oakland teachers have voted to authorize a strike against the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) if they do not settle their contract by the time school opens next fall.
At a membership meeting last Wednesday, attended by nearly 700 union members, 651 teachers, or 94 percent, voted in favor of giving the union’s Executive Board the power to call a strike.
The bargaining teams of the Oakland Education Association (OEA) and OUSD met this week and have more bargaining sessions scheduled. The union represents about 2,400 teachers and other educators.
“It’s about being prepared,” said OEA President Trish Gorham.
“The strike vote means we are standing strong behind our bargaining team. We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” she said.
“The main point is to get a sense of the membership and to have the OEA Executive Board to have the authority to do the organizing over the summer and to be able to take work actions, up to and including a strike if necessary.”
Before the union decides to go on strike, it must first go through a legal process that includes declaring impasse, mediation, and fact finding, which take a minimum of two months, said Gorham.
One of the outstanding issues is a wage increase that would be sizable enough to bring district teachers up to the median of teacher salaries in Alameda County.
Both sides agree that salaries in Oakland have been in the cellar for years, impacting the district’s ability to recruit and retain teachers and contributing to OUSD’s chronically high teacher turnover rate.
The district has offered a 10.5 percent raise over three years. OEA believes there is a possibility of a larger raise than offered this year based on increased funding from the state that will be revealed about May 15.
Another important sticking point in negotiations is Article 12, which covers transfers and assignments of teachers.
The district is seeking “flexibility” in the assignment of teachers who are involuntarily transferred or whose jobs are eliminated, for example when a school closes.
The district’s previous proposal minimizes the importance of veteran teachers’ successful classroom experience and loyalty to the district, according to many teachers.
“We maintain seniority should play a deciding role when teachers are displaced through circumstances beyond their control,” said Gorham, who emphasized that “good faith bargaining” is continuing
“The OEA bargaining team has been voicing our concerns during bargaining sessions, and some of those concerns have been addressed,” she said.