Oakland teachers walk out
by Selim Jones
A “wildcat strike” refers to when a group strikes without their union’s approval. It also refers to when Oakland High Wildcats teachers strike, which they just might do.
Oakland teachers have been working without a contract for over a year, and, tired of low pay in an expensive city to live in, decided to carry out a wildcat strike on Monday, Dec. 10.
“You can call it a walk-out or a work stoppage if you want. It is not an official OEA action. Teachers at Oakland High have had enough. We need to take action to be heard, and the actions will only escalate from here and hopefully spread to other sites before the School Board does more damage. We must make our city government realize that that the health of our city depends on strong, equitable, public schools,” said Miles Murray, English teacher and Oakland High OEA representative. Murray, said in a press release that a strike is not off the table. “In fact, it’s looming and we’re getting ready for it.”
According to the Wildcat Underground, an informal group of Oakland High teachers, a newly credentialed Oakland teacher with a BA starts with a salary of $45,570. In Fremont, a city where the median rent is $244 less than in Oakland, a teacher starts with a salary of $66,398.
It’s not all bad; OUSD teachers receive one of the best health care packages among Bay Area school districts, but for many teachers the long term salary gap is too much to ignore.
This problem is not new, with Oakland teachers striking in 1996 on similar grounds. Since then, not much has changed. Oakland still leads the state in district budget paid to consultants and top-salaried district-level administrators, not teachers.
Keith Brown, the president of OEA, said in an interview with OaklandNorth, “It’s very difficult to maintain being a teacher when you cannot afford basic necessities, and not only basic necessities for yourself and your living conditions, but teachers are coming out of pocket for basic supplies like pens or pencils.”
According to Murray, OUSD has been putting off creating a new contract for two years.
“Our union has been following the rules in negotiations for almost two years and the district continues to stall, except when moving in the wrong direction.’’
At most schools, newer teachers face risks if they go through with the wildcat strike. California Education Code provides some protection to teachers who have worked for more than two years. If teachers are in their first or second year, they are at risk of not being re-hired. However, Oakland High Principal Matin Abdel-qawi said he would back any teachers who protest.
“Participating in an action or strike isn’t grounds for firing a teacher,” said Abdel-qawi. “My primary objective as principal of Oakland High is to hire and support teachers who support our students. Our teachers deserve a contract reflective of their tremendous dedication and unselfish commitments they’ve made to our students.”
Regardless of what happens to new teachers, the strike happened. And for what teachers say is a good reason.
“It is ridiculous that the majority of educators in Oakland can barely afford to live in the community in which we teach,” said Oakland High OEA rep Cole Margen, a history teacher in the RISE Academy.