News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.
Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.
February 22, 2019
According to the Oakland Education Association (OEA), 85 percent of teachers participated in the strike, with many sites seeing much higher participation.
School sites were almost entirely shut down across the district, with only a few students at some sites and many sites with no students in attendance. According to OEA, Fremont High School had eight students in attendance, West Oakland Middle School had no students, and Manzanita SEED had two students
Eight solidarity schools were held at churches and community centers across the district, providing meals along with activities to children whose parents didn’t want to cross the picket line and had no other childcare options. The Grand Lake Theater offered special strike showings of “Black Panther” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet” for $1
Militant teachers from unions across the country, including New York, Virginia, and Denver, flew in to support the strike and get hands-on learning for their own struggles.
The Bread for Ed fundraiser to feed Oakland students during the strike topped $110,000 in donations today.
Claremont Middle School had a high-energy picket line. Students led chants and Claremont music teachers led picketers in singing. An estimated 12 students were in the building.
The previous night, Claremont teachers had changed the passcodes on their Chromebooks so that the administration could not access them during the strike. Teachers wanted to emphasize that the schools could not function without them, and they suspected if the administration had access to the Chromebooks, they would try to let technology substitute for a qualified teacher. This morning, after the Claremont principal tried to convince teachers to give up the codes, one teacher told him that he and the rest of the teachers wouldn’t share the codes. After the principal left to find bolt cutter to access the Chromebooks, a teacher revealed they had hidden the boltcutters.
At Oakland High School, the picket line doubled as a dance party with a DJ and sound system. Teachers did yoga in the driveway to block delivery trucks. Student activists Racquel Richardson and Kimberly Wong picketed with their teachers.
“We’re out here supporting teachers because they deserve a living wage,” said Richardson. “They go and support us every day, making our dreams come true, so we need to support them.”
“We’re out here because our teachers don’t get paid enough,” said Wong. “They always stay really late to help me with my homework and my college apps…I’m motivated every day when I see them so passionate coming to work. So we’ve got to fight for them.”
Sankofa Academy reportedly had 13 students in attendance, and a contingent of teachers from Malcolm X Elementary in Berkeley came out to support Sankofa teachers.
There was a large, energetic picket line at Skyline High School. Student leaders took the bullhorn and lead chants all morning. The teachers allowed several buses of special education students to cross the line, as had been predetermined. All other traffic was successfully turned away. Some reported that AC Transit was dropping students off elsewhere instead of bringing them to school.
Former Oakland council member (and father of a Skyline teacher) Dan Siegel picketed with teachers and students. “It’s ridiculous that the school board is not meeting the teachers’ demand for a 12 percent pay increase,” he said.
At La Escuelita Elementary, some picketers paid homage to Oakland’s indigenous heritage by demonstrating in traditional Ohlone ceremonial dress.
Greenleaf Elementary celebrated the strike with double-dutch competitions and a pancake cook-off on portable grills.
Some picketers arrived at Prescott School at 4:30 a.m. with a multilingual banner in English, Cantonese, and Spanish informing cafeteria workers of their right to strike in solidarity with teachers. There were reportedly fewer than 10 students in attendance.
Teachers picketed at MLK and Lafayette Elementary. According to a para-educator: “We want to make sure they understand we feel we are not valued. We are struggling to do the work of multiple teachers as one. Classified workers like myself are being taken advantage of. They are trying to bully me into going across the picket line.”
At Melrose Leadership Academy, there was a huge picket line with lots of energy, with a high turnout from teachers and families. Fewer than 10 students (out of about 500) went inside. One teacher went inside, with the prior approval of OEA due to visa concerns. Support staff offered snacks to the picketers.
Starting around 11:30 a.m., an estimated 5,000 teachers, students, and community members gathered at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Nurses and workers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) came out in force to show their support. Volunteers from East Bay DSA handed out free brown bag lunches and pizza to the hungry crowd. The rally ended with a singalong of “Which Side Are You On?” and a triumphant march to OUSD headquarters. Marching and brass bands accompanied the crowds. During the march, one young student took a bullhorn to lead a chant of “Teacher strike! Teacher strike! Capitalism will fall, then we’ll have a ball!”
Majority interviewed several community members at the rally.
OUSD high school student-activist Valerie said she participated both in the January teacher walkout and the recent student sickout. She says she is fighting for “smaller class sizes, living wages, and more student support.”
A father who came out to the rally with his son (a student at Piedmont Avenue Elementary), said he came to the rally “just to be out here in solidarity with all the teachers, recognizing that education is the most important thing. It’s the single biggest factor in making sure that…at-risk youth get an opportunity… I don’t understand how people can expect teachers to live on the pay that they give them.”
Oakland SOL Middle School teacher Steve reported that no students crossed the picket line at his school this morning. Like many others, he talked about his school’s huge problem with teacher turnover and the need for better wages and working conditions. “We can’t attract folks, we can’t keep the folks we’ve got,” Steve said.
For pictures and videos of the strike, follow @dsaeastbay on Instagram.