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 11, 2019

Oakland Unified School District treats scabs better than teachers

Teachers and community supporters picketed OUSD’s scab worker hiring fair this weekend, completely shutting it down within hours

By Jamie Gardner

This weekend, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) sparked outrage when they tried to hire scabs to replace striking teachers—for more than twice what they pay regular subs. Oakland teachers and their supporters in the community jumped into action to block the district, completely shutting down a scab hiring fair within hours and jamming the district’s online hiring portals.

OUSD posted the online job listings for paid strike-breakers, or “scabs,” to staff Oakland schools in case teachers go on strike this month. The district waived nearly every qualification normally required of substitute teachers, showing that they are more committed to breaking the power of striking teachers than to ensuring the safety and well-being of students. The $300-a-day rate for scabs is more than twice what subs are normally paid in Oakland and is well above the starting pay for the district’s full-time teachers.

The response from teachers, parents, and community members was immediate, fierce, and creative.

On Saturday, over 40 people turned out to an OUSD hiring fair with picket signs and flyers letting potential strikebreakers know what they were getting into. The power of any strike comes from workers withholding their labor and grinding everything to a halt until the boss caves and gives into their demands. In OUSD, teachers are demanding lower class sizes, more pay, and more services for students—things anyone who cares about children should want. If the district can easily replace the striking teachers with scabs and carry on as usual, the strike will drag out, and it’ll be harder for teachers to win.

By contrast, a quick and decisive win by teachers would mean better-funded schools with more support for students.

The anti-scab action at the hiring fair was a shockingly fast success: the district shut down the Saturday job fair after the majority of would-be applicants chose not to cross the teachers’ picket line. The district added a second fair on Sunday, but teachers and their allies returned in full force.

Halfway through the hastily-added Sunday event, no applicants had showed up. Instead of persuading scabs not to scab, teachers, kids, and community supporters were simply meeting each other, cheering back at supportive passersby, and talking shop about their schools.

One teacher described the normal, cumbersome process to become a substitute in Oakland: applicants must come to an orientation only offered four days a year and pay out of pocket for their own pre-employment fingerprints and vaccinations. This process makes it difficult for interested, qualified applicants—such as student teachers—to fill those positions. But to hire scabs, the district dispensed with these bureaucratic hurdles, offering to cover the fees and setting up an online application.

Across the Bay Area, low pay for subs has lead to a critical shortage that creates chaos in school districts, making it impossible for teachers to get regular time out of the classroom to collaborate with their grade- or subject-area teams or attend trainings.

Teachers also expressed concern that the district is endangering students by hiring strikebreakers off Craigslist. The district has stated that it’s skipping any requirement related to teaching or childcare experience, and it’s unclear what background checks, if any, will be required.

Meanwhile parents, teachers, faith leaders, and the city government are rushing to set up safe, supervised solidarity schools, replete with Bread for Ed–funded meals, to ensure kids who don’t cross the picket line will be well cared for. Given the carelessness with which the district is hiring its scabs, it’s clear that students will be better off out of school during the strike than inside.