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 28, 2019

Striking in the rain: Highlights of the week so far

As the Oakland teachers’ strike enters its sixth day, rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Oakland teachers and community members in their fight against billionaire privatizers and the bought-off school board. During the first half of this week, teachers, students, and supporters continued to chant, play music, sing, and dance joyfully on the picket lines and in the streets—usually in the rain.

At some sites, the picket lines and community support have grown noticeably in strength. On Monday, the first day of the strike, Madison Park Elementary had 70 students in class. By Wednesday, that number had dropped to only 15.

Although their figures should be taken with a grain of salt, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) claims that the strike costs it $1 million a day.

Meanwhile, Bread for Ed, the fund to feed students and teachers during the strike, continues to raise money, having collected over $160,000 as of Thursday morning.

Here are some highlights from the week so far.

Monday, Feb. 25

According to the Oakland Education Association (OEA), 96 percent of its members went on strike Monday. Roughly 4,500 community members took to picket lines and the streets, while only 3 percent of students attended school.

Oakland teachers were joined in solidarity by workers from other unions, including San Francisco teachers who called out sick to walk the picket line.

Teachers and supporters held a mid-day rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza. OEA president Keith Brown was joined by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) president Alex Caputo-Pearl, who helped lead LA teachers to their recent strike victory.

After the rally, teachers and supporters marched to the Elihu M. Harris State Building on Clay Street, where bargaining between OUSD and OEA is taking place.

Tuesday, Feb. 26

On Tuesday, OEA reported that once again 96 percent of teachers were on strike, with only 3 percent of students in school.

Teachers and community members marched to Roots International School, one of the many public schools the district has slated for closure. Teachers walked the two-mile route neighborhood students would have to take if their school is closed.

The march ended in a rally at Roots. Boots Riley, Oakland rapper and film director (“Sorry to Bother You”) spoke. He told the teachers:

“I thank you for what you’re doing, because without y’all, they will privatize everything. They’ll privatize every single thing, and you’ll have to have a credit card for each lesson you get. And what’s stopping that is not just that the people in charge have good hearts … [No] matter how great of a person gets there in office, they’re not going to be able to do all the things to fight for people that they say they’re gonna do if there’s not a real fight going on. So y’all shutting it down is how it happens, and so thank you.”

OUSD showed signs of cracking under the strike’s pressure, when board member Roseann Torres made a public statement on Facebook declaring her support for the teachers and calling for the district to meet teachers’ demands.

Wednesday, Feb. 27

Wednesday morning, Oakland teachers and supporters occupied the State Building on Clay Street, in another demonstration against OUSD’s refusal to adequately fund its schools.

Later that day, a massive group of teachers and community members shut down a scheduled OUSD board meeting at La Escuelita Elementary, thereby postponing a decision on whether to cut millions of dollars from the budget. According to the East Bay Times, “The school board was expected to consider cutting at least $21 million from the 2019-20 budget…a move that could involve laying off more than 100 employees and slashing school sites’ discretionary funds.”

Showing their true colors, some board members were dead-set on crossing the picket line. Board member and charter school advocate Jumoke Hinton-Hodge, in response to being asked not to attend the meeting, said she had a job to do. Nevertheless, Hinton-Hodge and other board members were turned away by the crowds.

The strike continues today, with a citywide rally planned for 11:30–1:30 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza again.

Teachers from around the Bay Area have planned a sickout to join the picket lines in solidarity with Oakland teachers, students, and parents.