Teachers union gets a jump-start on strike vote

teacher contractOn Wednesday evening at Oakland Technical High School, Oakland teachers will vote on whether to authorize its leadership to call a one-day strike — not now, but in a month or two. 

When I first saw a flier advertising the membership meeting (which, ahem, includes an unattributed Tribune photo apparently lifted from the Web), I was confused by what I read. Why a vote at this stage, weeks before a strike is legal?

Before the union can strike, both sides must agree on a neutral representative for a three-person “fact-finding” panel (along with representatives for the union and for the district administration). A hearing is held, usually within 10 days. Within 30 days of the hearing, the panel comes out with a report and a non-binding opinion.

Ten days later, if the two sides still haven’t reached agreement, the teachers can strike.

That could be more than seven weeks from now, and the district could change its proposal during that time. So, let’s say the teachers authorize a one-day strike, based on the current proposal, and that the district administration later offers a small raise. The union leadership would still be authorized to call the strike — though, of course, it doesn’t mean that they would.

Teachers union President Betty Olson-Jones said Wednesday’s membership meeting was scheduled about two months ago, and that her executive board had thought the fact-finding process would be further along by this point.

“We felt it was time to get the membership together and talk about where this is going because we’ve been negotiating for two years now,” she said.

Olson-Jones stressed that the membership was only voting on a one-day strike, and that they’d have to ratify any longer-term actions. She also said that if the district comes up with a more favorable proposal, she’d seek input from her school representatives and other members before taking action.

Still, the decision to call such a vote now doesn’t seem to bode well for labor peace in Oakland schools. Olson-Jones said she doubted the district would change its proposal, especially in light of news of further state cuts and a growing deficit.

Troy Christmas, the district’s director of labor relations, wouldn’t discuss the probability of a strike (Imagine that!). “We are so far from that at this point that we aren’t in that mindset at all,” he said.


File photo by Aric Crabb/Oakland Tribune

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Predictions? Same ‘ole same ‘ole.

    What’s most interesting is “Teachers union President Betty Olson-Jones said Wednesday’s membership meeting was scheduled about TWO months ago, and that her executive board had thought the fact-finding process would be further along by this point.”

    That jogged my memory back to your article about ONE month ago when they were still in mediation. Guess they didn’t expect mediation to go well either.

    Then, of course, there is the irony of this post coming 2 days after your post of Dr. Smith announcing that the state is proposing further cuts to education and to OUSD by $8 million.

    When will this sad saga end?

    At this stage, most of us are happy to have jobs. I can’t imagine asking for a raise in the state my company is in (geographically and financially). It’d be nice though.

    Katy, didn’t the Trib have furlough days?

  • Katy Murphy

    We had five furlough days last year. This year, it was a straight-up pay cut — no furlough.

  • Cranky Teacher

    The world doesn’t stop because of a recession. Oakland teachers are still severely underpaid compared to neighboring districts and the district still is struggling with massive turnover of faculty.

    If the pie is shrinking, there are still plenty of us who think how the smaller pie should be divided is open for debate.

    Even Gov. Schwartzenegger is looking at capping prison spending while putting a floor on higher ed spending — the kind of redistribution of resources we need, IMHO.

    And yes, funding for public education is a different issue than whether a private company should or should not lay folks off, TheTruthHurts.

  • Harold

    newspapers can fail … so many have already in the internet age … but our schools cannot fail.

    that’s the difference. if you play “hardball” with Teachers, you’re playing hardball with students. If you ask us to take a pay cut, some will stay, but the best will probably leave.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I am in no way suggesting a pay cut. Heck, I want a raise and think I “deserve” one too. What I am saying is you should only spend what you have. Doing otherwise is what got OUSD and this whole nation in trouble.

    My point is that giving such a raise seems unrealistic in a state economy where the money to pay for it is shrinking. It seems doubly unrealistic in a district one foot out of state takeover. I’ve read a little about LA and some local districts and they are closing schools, raising class sizes, capping health benefits, taking furloughs and laying off teachers. If OUSD can give a raise in this environment – I say go for it. It just doesn’t seem realistic.

    Of course companies can fail. And have. Unfortunately, it is their taxes and the taxes of their employees (Katy and ME included), that pay for those salaries you want increased. Katy appears to have less to contribute given the furlough days. I’m sure she’s not alone. That’s what seems to be missing from this discussion. Deserved or not, I’d be a little pissed if I had to take a pay cut and my teacher was on strike because she didn’t get a raise.

  • Nextset

    Harold – you said our schools cannot fail.

    They have already failed.

    California is a failed state. That will become obvious in the next six months. California’s public schools are failed schools in the urban areas and are schools in name only. The successes they do have are not “value added” successes but rather students that would have taught themselves anyway to the performance level they show in the public school.

    When homeschooled children are reporting reading/writing scores as high as they do against the LA Unified and Oakland Unified averages, yes, the schools can and do fail.

    And people are not going go vote for more money for failing schools.

    It’s time for changes to be made back to policies that worked. Since that’s not going to happen either, all we have to look for is the complete collapse of these urban school districts in favor of the newer Charter Schools.

  • harlemmoon

    The OEA needs a crash course in public relations. Saber-rattling is ill-advised. Why stoke the flames even before the first match is struck?
    How can the good residents of Oakland feel confident that those entrusted with the education of their children have their priorities in the right order? What’s more, what does this type of behavior model to the students watching this perversion of the labor process?
    This tone-deaf, bullying move is wholly counter-productive. And then we wonder why we never see progress.
    Boo on you, OEA!

  • Let’s Get Real

    I guess you really have to be a teacher in Oakland to understand what is necessary to try to bargain a decent contract with OUSD. Suffice it to say that playing patty cake is not an option–and that applies to union negotiations in general.

    As far as funding goes, if funds were distributed as they should be–classrooms first–the money would be available to compensate teachers fairly. That is what we are asking district officials to do. There is too much spending on outside consultants, unnecessary administrators, coaches, etc.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Just to be clear in post #8, I don’t mean athletic coaches. I’m referring to academic coaches who basically serve as unofficial administrators.

  • Katy Murphy

    BUDGET UPDATE: I don’t know why the projected budget deficit for 2010-11 has grown since Smith’s report on Wednesday night, but school finance officials are now putting the figure at $40 million, rather than $36 million, according to the district’s weekly online review: http://bit.ly/5vHIEV

  • Richard Thompson

    The decline of Public Education in California is linked to the years of Governor Reagan and Proposition 13.