News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.

Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.

East Bay DSA

February 24, 2019

The strike continues: Highlights from day two

On Friday, Feb. 22, the teachers of the Oakland Education Association went on strike for a second day.

On Thursday night, Oakland celebrities including Rafael Casal, Mahershala Ali, Raphael Saadiq, Steph Curry, and Boots Riley released a video explaining the context of the strike, and expressing strong support for the striking teachers. The video circulated over social media and received a boost from national press on Friday.

Picket lines continued to be strong and lively. According OEA President Keith Brown’s end of day statement to the press, Friday’s picket lines were even bigger than Thursday’s. Dancing was witnessed at several school sites.

Teachers and supporters continued to host solidarity schools to offer supervision to children during the strike, like this one at the 81st Ave Library. Bread for Ed raised more funds to feed students and teachers during the strike, surpassing $125,000 in total donations by Friday evening. Beginning early in the morning, East Bay DSA organized “flying squadrons” to move strike supporters, meals, and other supplies to picket lines where they were needed most.

The rally at Defremery Park was a high point. Joined by members of the National United Health Workers and other supporters, a large crowd of teachers gathered to protest school closures and privatization. Pastor Anthony Jenkins, of Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, pledged the support of his church in providing childcare for as long as the strike takes.

In an inspiring show of solidarity, non-union teachers at 10 charter schools organized wildcat walkouts (continuing a trend of growing charter teacher militancy nationwide). Charter school teachers who walked out spoke against privatization at the rally.

The rally ended with a march through west Oakland to the headquarters of GO Public Schools, where teachers and community members protested the organization’s efforts to close public schools and replace them with charters. Funded by billionaires ex-Bloomberg CEO and former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, deceased ice cream magnate T. Gary Rogers, and Silicon Valley tycoon Arthur Rock, the organization has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying seats on the Oakland school board in order to advance its school privatization agenda. The strike, and Friday’s protest in particular, show that Oakland is fighting back.

Fans of school privatization got in on the action Friday as well. In a comically ill-considered attempt to turn public sentiment against striking teachers, the Freedom Foundation hired a private plane to fly over the city with a large banner falsely claiming that OEA President Brown makes $350,000 a year. (The Freedom Foundation is a right-wing think tank. It receives generous funding from the Walton Family Foundation, run by the ultrarich heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune and devoted to school privatization.)

But teachers received high-profile support of their own. Friday morning, presidential contender and stalwart labor supporter Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted in support of the strike. “I stand with @OaklandEA teachers who are fighting for smaller class sizes, fairer pay, more student support, and fundamentally defending public education. Oakland must not shut down 24 of the city’s 87 public schools,” Sanders said.

Friday evening, Brown declared that teachers “are ready to walk the line on Monday if necessary.” Anticipating rain on Monday, supporters have begun collecting funds to buy umbrellas for the picketers.