Part of the Bay Area News Group

Oaklanders: Do you support the strike? The contract imposition?

By Katy Murphy
Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at 11:23 am in OEA, Tony Smith, union contract.

Teachers make picket signs Thursday for strike. Photo by Ray Chavez/Tribune staff

At a news conference yesterday morning, Gary Yee placed the teacher contract imposition in the context of the district’s painful takeover history, Tony Smith said he wanted to start over and OEA executive director Ward Rountree said that was a terrible way to do it. (You can find a story about the whole situation here.)

We posted reader polls on the strike and the contract imposition, if you care to vote. Oh, and the Tribune ran an editorial saying raises for teachers would be “nice,” but that the district can’t afford them.

At the news conference yesterday, I asked why the district decided not to return to the table with the teachers union. Why impose now? Yee said immediate changes in two provisions — removing previous K-3 class size caps as well as a miminum number of contract teachers for its adult education programs, which will be slashed by 40 percent next year – would save between $1 million and $3 million.

Board member David Kakishiba had this to say before the news conference started: “I think in either decision — going back to the table or doing the imposition — the prospect of success, where both sides are happy, I think, are remote.”

He added, “I think what we did last night was to try something a little different.”

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  • concerned parent

    The OUSD management could have followed the fact finder’s report to give the teachers 2 days of prep time back–eg. not require them, while maintaining salaries. This would result in a “raise” without the expenditure of any more funds. Why not do this?

    And I’m still not clear on where the “inflated consultant” funds are being spent.

    And, while the OUSD website describes cuts to other districts, what is the comparable cut in OUSD? eg. number of teachers, class size increases, etc.?

    Lastly, when will OEA and OUSD be able to actually work together? The community needs you do, with respect and goodwill and professionalism from all parties.

  • Sue

    I’ve said here before, my husband and our two sons will be on the picket lines supporting our teachers’ strike.

    Since the contract was imposed, my husband has been seriously trying to convince me that I should call in sick to work next Thursday – something I wasn’t going to do, so I could save my time off allotment for next fall when our older son with autism starts college – and join the rest of the family on the picket line.

    I’m becoming convinced that he’s absolutely right.

  • On The Fence

    I’m not a teacher. I am a parent of two children in the OUSD. They will not be at school on the day of the strike. I support the teachers in striving for a fair wage and supportive working conditions. I’d like to see OUSD reprioritize their budget in favor of the teachers as they are the people who most directly impact the children. IMO, the teachers are the workers who add value in the educational system. Multi-level administrators do not grade my children’s book reports, teach my children math, or challenge my children daily. A few administrators and consultants may be needed, but the work that I value most (and would like my tax dollars to support) happens in the classroom.

  • Katy Murphy

    I was just talking with our photo editor about where to send a photographer on Thursday morning for coverage of the strike.

    Any tips? We’re looking for schools that expect to have teachers and families on the picket line.

  • OUSD teacher and parent

    This situation is so sad in every way. The worst part is that it’s getting everyone off the topic that we really should be talking about: how money is allocated by our government and what public schools deserve. OUSD has no money, I don’t support the strike. Our state is broke, however, the cuts to public education were higher than to other areas. So the first place I’d be re-directing energy to is our governor. This is a battle to take to Sacramento.

    Second, this is really about capitalism and our society’s mindless acceptance of it. Why don’t we question this system at it’s foundation? That Exxon-Mobile paid NO FEDERAL TAXES this year, and made $45 BILLION in profits? That Goldman Sachs just handed out another $3 billion in bonuses? Our government priorities are so deeply skewed; that’s where the battle should be. Not in a broke district full of a lot of hard working people. Not creating more “us and them” mentalities, teachers vs administrators.

    The district is not an evil entity; Tony Smith is not trying to destroy education. Teachers work very hard and should be paid more. It’s very sad. And yet, I think that this strike is more divisive and destructive than helpful. I was teaching in OUSD in the ’96 strike. The animosities that developed during those six weeks lasted for years and nothing positive was won from the strike.

    I won’t go to work on Thursday and I’ll keep my kid home. But I won’t be on the lines and I’ll be back on Friday, regardless. Let’s start focusing our energies where it really might matter – at the state and federal level, at the desperately foundational inequalities in how money is allocated.

  • Sue

    Our sons attend Skyline and Montera. I’m not sure which of those schools provided my husband the fliers earlier this week, but that’s where we’ll be until the rally midday downtown.

    This week end, I expect we’ll be handing out strike fliers in our neighborhood.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Frankly, I encourage teachers to do whatever they think is productive. My question is whether what we’ll see is an expression of anger or something meant to be productive?

    Do people honestly think the unanimous Board of Education and all administration hate teachers and want to see good teachers leave in favor of poor teachers staying? Particularly in light of the Board and Supt’s statements, where is the evidence of this?

    If the money isn’t there (http://www.insidebayarea.com/ci_14938331), what do you think the response to all the picketing will be? NOTHING.

    What are the pros and cons of striking?

    Pro – pressure board to give raise NOW; demand “respect” deserved; pressure for change of priorities.

    Cons – if no money, no raise; look crazy to all laid off workers, furloughed workers, salary cut workers, benefit cut workers, foreclosed families; create chaotic environment that further alienates parents who have CHOICE; confuse students; distract from education; make ultimate settlement more difficult by expanding justifiably hurt feelings.

    I’m sure there’s more on both sides, but I hope that OEA’s leadership will think about the ultimate productivity of their actions more than righteous indignation. When all is said and done these folks have to work together for the benefit of children. Let’s hope they all remember that.

  • TheTruthHurts

    Katy, go to the high schools that have white parents. That’s where you’ll find the most parents and teachers together. I apologize if this statement offends anyone, but I bet it proves true. I’ll eat online crow if I’m wrong.

  • harlemmoon

    Striking in an economy not seen since the Great Depression suggests a gaping synapse on the part of the union.
    Yes, teachers deserve to be better paid. Yes, teachers should be valued partners in our community. Yes, teachers must be seen as critical to the futures of our children.
    But for all that, teachers must still realize that this is the absolute worst time to make such a stand. In asserting themselves in this way (and in this brutal economic climate), they come off as self-righteous, whiny even. Not to mention insensitive and desperately greedy.
    What’s more, these are the very same teachers who, when they had the opportunity to support a proposition that would have helped increase salaries and resources, railed against it because some of the money would have been funneled to charter schools. Can you say stingy and small-minded, too?
    Come on. Get off your high horses and get back into the classroom. I’d think that with all the papers you claim to have to stay up late grading every night, you’d make better use of your time!

  • Oakland Teacher

    I will be striking Thursday even though I don’t think it will accomplish anything. I have friends who are jobless and the timing is all wrong. However, there will be conflict among teachers at my site if we don’t all go out and that will damage the school going forward. The union is bullying us into doing this. They have not done a good job of negotiating and now we are stuck with a radical action that will most likely prove fruitless.

  • Oakland Educator

    A good friend works about halfway up the corporate ladder, and he said the recession has been a boon to his multinational company. They laid off about 3% of the workforce and blamed it on the recession, but he says it was really just getting rid of the 3% they wanted to fire who they thought would have grounds for a labor suit.

    Similarly, OUSD is using the recession to obfuscate their poor budget management and claim empty pockets for a teachers’ raise. Meanwhile, I’m finding that about half the teachers at my large school are looking for jobs in other districts or other fields entirely.

    Even the UC’s had the good sense to have people at the top take pay cuts, but Tony Smith is spouting his empty “personal commitments” and banking nearly four times the salary of a 30-year teacher. The school board voted themselves a raise this year.

    Teachers in this district are used to a new superintendent, NExO, and/or principal EVERY YEAR. The district’s empty promises about future pay mean less than nothing; they are insulting. Last time the excuse was state control, and before that it was the economy again.

    Why don’t they just fess up to the shady network of conflicts of interest around the charters and admit that there’s pressure for public education to “fail” so that they can privatize? Free market competition has done so much for the public good so far, right? Superfund sites, public health cover-ups–how about the educational futures of children at urban schools? Oops, another unforeseen externality.

  • Oakland Educator

    A good friend works about halfway up the corporate ladder, and he said the recession has been a boon to his multinational company. They laid off about 3% of the workforce and blamed it on the recession, but he says it was really just getting rid of the 3% they wanted to fire who they thought would have grounds for a labor suit.

    Similarly, OUSD is using the recession to obfuscate their poor budget management and claim empty pockets for a teachers’ raise. Meanwhile, I’m finding that about half the teachers at my large school are looking for jobs in other districts or other fields entirely.

    Even the UC’s had the good sense to have people at the top take pay cuts, but Tony Smith is spouting his empty “personal commitments” and banking nearly four times the salary of a 30-year teacher. The school board voted themselves a raise this year.

    Teachers in this district are used to a new superintendent, NExO, and/or principal EVERY YEAR. The district’s empty promises about future pay mean less than nothing; they are insulting. Last time the excuse was state control, and before that it was the economy again.

    Why don’t they just fess up to the shady network of conflicts of interest around the charters and admit that there’s pressure for public education to “fail” and make way for privatization? Free market competition has done so much for the public good so far, right? Superfund sites, public health cover-ups–how about the educational futures of children at urban schools? Oops, another unforeseen externality.

  • Harold

    a little history for the uninformed:
    http://www.nber.org/papers/w6012
    “This paper examines the spurt in U.S. unionism during the Great Depression. It argues that the Depression spurt is better understood as resulting from a Depression sparked endogenous social process than from New Deal legislation and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) leadership. Four pieces of evidence are offered for this interpretation: 1. The ubiquity of spurts in unionization across countries, particularly in the Depression. 2. The widespread use of recognition strikes during the 1930s spurt. 3. The growth of CIO affiliates with little CIO financial or organizing aid. 4. The growth of American Federation of Labor (AFL) affiliated unions. I model unionization as the outcome from a conflict between union/worker organizing activity and employer opposition, both of which depend on the proportion organized. Union organizing and activity rises with density, then falls with density. Employer opposition is high at low densities but falls once unions gain control of the relevant market. The result is a nonlinear difference equation that produces spurts of union growth. The Depression initiated a spurt by increasing worker desires for unions and by raising density above the critical level’ for rapid growth in many industries.”

  • Sam Davis

    All but two teachers at the Manzanita campus will be on strike. I teach for Adult Education (the parent program) at Manzanita, so I know at least some of the parents in my class will be on the picket line with us.

  • Sam Davis

    Oh and I just saw the incredibly offensive comment from TheTruthHurts. Um, we don’t have a lot of white parents at Manzanita. At my school and at many other flatland elementary schools that I know, the parents are almost all people of color and are VERY pro-teacher.

  • http://www.cpa.com len raphael

    OEA gets outmanoeuvred every time by the charter schools and the non profit consultants.

    if OEA had looked just a few years down the financial road, they would have fought to amend Measure Y and OO so that most of those youth funding went to OUSD instead of to non profit allies of oakland pols. NOT, when their formerly beloved school board pres DM, organized OO.

    Instead OUSD members embraced Y and OO.

  • Cheuy_Leuy

    Ditto…@Harold…

    All of this teacher/principal bashing needs to STOP!!!
    If the same amount of energy was put out by the same people feeling teachers/principals enjoy “privileges” that they don’t, why don’t they go out like the UC Berkeley Graduate students and others in recent new like at Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds, etc…and go organize a Union. By supporting the OEA and the Strike, you are ensuring yourselves a better chance of successfully organizing a Union of your own…Also, why is there not Civil Disobedience (peaceful of course) to the level of the 1960′s and back in the Era of Union Organizing and Sufferette times?…Wall Street and the Banks are the people who caused this greed induced depression…not the teachers/principals of Oakland…round all those people up for the Court of Public Opinion…vigilante style too…At least Jerry Brown tried to sue State Street Bank for its gimmick that cost the State Teacher Retirement System and PERS in this State to lose 30%+/- of its value…Sometime soon these same teachers will be on the street as elderly without a home or food…but you know what…Americans always get it wrong in this day and age…Keep swallowing the divide and conquer tactics of Corporate/Organizational Socio-Paths…If Oakland really got it right, it wouldn’t be just the Teachers and hopefully parents closing schools on 4/29/2010, but the whole City of people who are fed up with all of this piracy and thievery again the “peoples” assets…Oh, I forgot, where’s my meds, so another corporate entity may sedate me like it obviously has most Americans who refuse to assert their rights as citizens and on the streets of every City of America?

  • Oakland Teacher

    I just want to say that I am the regular “Oakland Teacher” and I did NOT write posting number #10!

    I do not agree with anything said in that posting.
    The district has refused to bargain. I am not being bullied by my union. My staff is 100% going out on April 29th in full agreement and proud to be willing to stand up for our students.

    Katie – why are posters allowed to use the same name?

    To poster #10 – if you are going to put your opinion up here, please at least differentiate yourself with a different name, adding #2 if you cannot think of different words. It is misleading to use someone else’s tag.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for clarifying, Oakland Teacher (#1).

    To answer your question, I’m afraid I can’t keep track of all of the similar-sounding screen names out there, and it’s not something the blog’s software does either. You might consider using a more unique name — or your real one — if you want to distinguish your comments. People new to the blog might not know which names are already `taken’.

  • Oakland Teacher #558

    I apologize. Katie is right, I was focusing on the comment and gave little thought to my “name”. I will be careful to use a unique tag next time.

  • Chris

    The teacher;s union flaw is their alignment with the “working class” profession. That is what happens when groups, such as unions get infiltrated with wacos like that BAMn group.

    The teaching profession used to be respected similar to that of a doctor, or lawyer. Teachers used to wear ties, and be formal. Ehat happened? Now educators protestors and community activists?

    Why are Teachers aliging themselves with the working class? No disrepstc to them ( I am one) but teachers need to have more clout and pride than that what the union is setting up for them.

    Your are being shortchanged by your “representatives”.

    You know, I hear all this talk of corporate takeovers of education, etc,etc…. have you seen the monies collected by the National Educators Association, which I heard is about 340 million.
    Teachers are held captive by their representatives….they just dont see it yet.

    I have a brother who was released fro prison (8 year bid) a few years ago. He was so instituiionalized, that he said he could not deal with the world outside the prison yard that he was used too.

    Teachers in the union are institutionilized and cannot think different…but in my opinion , you need too.
    The NEA is worse than corproate cause you have NO CHOICE as a teacher.

  • ralph

    No, I do not support the strike.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @Oakland Educator.

    Corporations always wait for the end of the business cycle (i.e. beginning of a recession) to remove poor performers. They then hold on to the remaining “afraid to leave” and thereby increase “productivity.” Meanwhile, they make higher profits even as revenues fall because their cost structure per unit of sales is reduced. As the economy picks up, they first hire temp help, then give raises, then hire new personnel to keep their now exhausted workers who might leave for now greener pastures. This strategy is as old as capitalism and surely is going on now. Companies that do this do in fact abuse their power in a downturn and do quite well on Wall Street as my portfolio could attest.

    In education, there is no profit. There are no offshore accounts, CEO bonuses. Where do you think this “profit” is going? I guarantee you that EVERY LARGE SCHOOL DISTRICT IN CALIFORNIA will have a smaller payroll next year and they won’t have an increase in reserves either. WHY? It’s called REVENUE REDUCTION in excess of SERVICE REDUCTION. If the costs to provide service stay the same (or horror of horrors, goes up), it generates a loss. You see, for FedEx, they reduce workers because there are fewer packages. If they reduce more workers than packages = PROFIT. In education the cuts in revenue have no correspondence to a reduction in work (i.e. students).

    The strategy that works in the private sector FAILS in the education sector. This is more true in education than other public sectors because at least the city can stop filling potholes, respond slower to fires, etc. Schools still need a teacher in the classroom and that is a fixed cost for every child they serve. The best they can hope for is changes in class size that might alleviate some of the revenue/cost pressure. Sounds like that is part of what OUSD imposed and however draconian, it makes good economic sense.

  • aly

    i’m tired of people saying “in this economy”- the teachers didn’t plan for there to be a recession when their contract expired. they aren’t just striking out of nowhere. the contract was up in 2008 and so it needed to be negotiated. the timing is unfortunate, but the bigger picture needs to be remembered.

    i also disagree that bully mentality doesn’t exist. i think it probably depends on the individuals at each site. at my site, there is definitely intimidation to participate or be ostracized. there is no room for understanding the personal situations or perspectives of individuals- classified or certificated- and it really annoys me. i understand unity is important, truly, but it is dangerous to get so caught up in the concept you forget about individuals.

    this year i am classified staff member and i am dreading thursday. i support my teachers (and myself, as i see a return to the classroom in my future), and i think it is possible for them to get what they’re asking for. however, i am concerned for the students who have no choice but to be at school, and i want to be there to support them without fear of retribution or hostility. my POV is this: the district is going to be hurt terribly by the lack of ADA because historically, parents keep their kids home when there is a strike. the classified staff showing up to be there for the kids who have to come aren’t going to hurt the union’s cause.

  • Oakland Teacher

    To clarify Aly’s comment about lack of ADA. There is a state law that allows districts to use ADA for either of the previous two years: this means that there is ZERO money lost during a strike for ADA. Ironically, the district always comes out ahead financially on strikes. They hire less staffing than they would normally be paying for. So at a school with 20 teachers (who will all be striking and NOT paid on 4/29), they will now be paying 8 subs. They are not going to try to fully replace every teacher with a sub for two reasons: it is not necessary due to decreased student attendance and it is logistically not possible to replace the number of teachers across the city who will be out. Hope that clarifies things. So while your concern for the kids is honorable, your concern about the district is misplaced. I believe that most of the support staff at my school are going to honor the picket lines on Thursday and am glad to have their support.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Katie – Is there any chance of finding out exactly how many substitutes the district has confirmed for work on Thursday? I would bet they will not come up with a number. We do not need to hear how many subs they have in the system in general. I have spoken to all the regulars at my school and none of them are even considering working; they will all be picketing at their chosen school or on 2nd ave.

    It would be fascinating to hear how many brand new subs will be working on Thursday. Scary thought to think of an entire school staffed by people who have never been in charge of a classroom before.

  • Katy Murphy

    As of Friday, there were 300 emergency subs cleared and ready to go, and more in the pipeline, according to Troy Flint.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @OUSD Teacher and Parent in post 5. I couldn’t agree with you more. Except to say, I think it’s worse than you describe. I believe our government is bought and paid for already. Sure, there are some well-meaning people, but on the whole, they are selfish, short-sighted and unwise.

    We cling to the American version of capitalism as if it were religion. Wealth disparity itself breeds greed, selfish-ambition and unhappiness. We perpetuate that and wonder why people are depressed and popping pills to get through the day. Every happy society I’ve visited had much more consistent living standards amongst the vast majority of the people (although there were always still a few “elites”).

    I’ve said before that this fighting over crumbs is making Reagan smile from the grave. At some point our greedy, selfish, apathetic electorate must decide what it wants and what it is willing to pay for it. If it is police, prisons and bombs, so be it, but I’ll need to be looking for greener pastures. I hope they decide they need to fund the future, including education. Right now, it seems they’d just rather play video games, watch American Idol/Desperate Housewives and eat one of those KFC monstrosity “sandwiches”. Ah, the joys of capitalism.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Katie-

    Thanks for getting the numbers back so quickly. So, they have hired 300 emergency subs to replace how many teachers? I think there are over 2500 teachers, nurses, counselors, speech therapists, psychologists and special education teachers in Oakland, with the vast majority of them classroom teachers. Could that mean there are 300 replacements for possibly 2000 striking teachers?

    Yikes! I feel sorry for site administration; Thursday will feel like “Groundhog Day” to them, a day that never ends. The biggest favor parents could do for them (as well as teachers) is keep your kids at home.

  • aly

    Oakland Teacher- thank you very much for the corrections, although it is disappointing that the strike will have positive financial ramifications.

    to be clear, i am not concerned for the district. i was interpreting the lost money as the main inconvenience for the district that would push them into going back to the table with OEA.

    what saddens me is that the district really won’t feel much pain from thursday, rather it will be felt at the site level, where no decision making power lies. what is the objective of the strike? gaining attention/support from the community? making a statement? i’m not trying to be facetious- if the financial incentive doesn’t exist, what will push the district into responding?

    “It would be fascinating to hear how many brand new subs will be working on Thursday. Scary thought to think of an entire school staffed by people who have never been in charge of a classroom before.” <– this is exactly why i feel obligated to be at work that day. not to say all ETTs aren't qualified or will be bad at what they do- i want to try to avoid generalizations- but there is a nagging feeling that there is a lot of inexperience coming into the building, and we'll still be short-staffed. as far as i can tell at my site, anyway, the only kids who will be there are the ones whose families have no choice. it doesn't seem fair to put them in questionable situations because mom and dad have to go to work.

    on that same note: knowing that teachers want to strongly encourage parents and students to stay out that day, how are picketers going to apply that pressure without making students feel bad/wrong for coming in the building? i am also concerned about the emotional effects that having to cross a picket line could cause for a child who loves their teachers but was told to go to school.

    finally, i hope teachers know that for many people who will go to work that day, the decision is not an easy one. it doesn't feel good. it is uncomfortable, stressful, and sad. we feel torn and trapped in a lose-lose situation.

    (this may end up being a duplicate- word press seems to be unhappy with me today- so apologies in advance)

  • David

    Fire them all. Fire all the bureaucrats and privatize the whole system. Give parents all fixed vouchers for any school and let the market sort it all out.

  • David

    PS. Private/public education systems coexist quite well in the university system in this country.

  • TheTruthHurts

    @Aly, I agree it’s just sad. I understand both sides and shudder at the potential for damage to adults and children alike. It’s very unfortunate it’s come to this.

  • Oakland Teacher

    The objective is to get the district back to the bargaining table. The objective is to get the district to consider the fact finding report as a starting point for negotiations. The objective is to show the district that “business as usual” is not happening. The objective is to let them know that the entire community is watching and is supporting the demands that class size not be increased further, that adult ed not be eliminated, and that the district change their priorities: spending more on 2 high priced administrators than other districts (whereas other districts only have 1 superintendent), and receiving more money per pupil than most districts while spending less on teacher salaries than other districts. Because our teacher turnover rate is so high, we end up with a very low average teacher salary. It is a real conflict of interest that when the district treats teachers poorly, they get to save money through rapid turnover of staff. That means that we spend even less than every other district on teacher pay as a % of the total budget. If everyone stayed out on 4/29, if other unions did not cross picket lines, the district would be forced to rethink its strategy.

    About kids crossing picket lines. I guess I can’t speak for others, but I have been through this before and we will wave and say hi to our kids. We are not forming wall to wall blockades that anyone has to break through. We will wish them a good morning and mean it.

  • Chauncey

    Heck yes!!! Gime my money and watch me send my kids to Head Royce school where many OUSD and Alameda County educators send their kids. Ms. Jordan, The Alamdea Co Supt. who bashes charters. and so – called, supported district schools did this. So did Alamda Supt Kristen Vital.Do your research.

    So how can we , the working class get our money to do the same? They believe in their system so much, that they avoid it.

    Get rid of em all!

  • http://chickensmama Hilary Stoermer

    I am supporting the strike for one day at least. I’m completely torn on this one. I respect the teachers so immensely and know they are not getting what they deserve (my sister being one of them). Yet on the other hand, I work for the City/County of SF and am looking at 12 or so furlough days next year, with possibly more to come. I so hope it comes to nothing more than this one day strike.

  • Starshaped

    Katy,

    I teach at Montclair and many of the families in my class will be on the line. I’m sure J. Miller, Thornhill, Kaiser, and Chabot will have a huge turnout as well. You may be able to hit a bunch of schools in one go. Thanks for the balaced reporting on this subject. It often seems, as a teacher, that public education is under attack from all sides. Its nice to see that not everyone is against us.

  • Turanga_teach

    Katy,
    Come on down to Sequoia: our very diverse school community is made up of many active supporters of public education in Oakland, and it looks like teachers and families will be out in strong numbers. The current OEA president is one of our former staff (heck, she may want to return after this contract year…)

  • Mahmood Ketabchi

    The imposition of “last, best, and final offer” by the district on the union is a union busting tactic usually used by hostile management groups. The fact that the district ignored the fact finder’s report shows the school district officials were negotiating in bad faith.

  • Mary

    I think you should go to Manzanita, since the OEA has gone on record saying that the way to pay teacher raises is to close small schools. You could ask the parents and teachers on the picket line which one of their small schools should close in order to pay for the teachers’raise.

  • concerned parent

    What was the raise the OUSD Board gave themselves? Hadn’t heard about that.

  • http://emeraldirises.blogspot.com/2010/04/oakland-strike-opinion.html Sarah

    I’m a third year teacher that came to Oakland because I believe that the system is broken. Our union does have its merits, but it has also done everything in their power to maintain status quo in Oakland. They are vehemently anti-testing, anti-charter schools, anti-teacher accountability. In 2008/9, they refused to participate in a Parcel Tax referendum that would have substantially raised OEA salaries (potentially $5K+). Long story short, the only place that the OEA leaders are looking for a raise is from the district, which is in the process of cutting $85 million this year alone. Their beliefs have made it impossible for OEA to pursue pay increases from other sources, including tax revenues, federal incentive programs, or foundations.
    I am crossing a picket line because I am choosing to stand up for what I believe in. Unions have their place, but when their methods (or the methods of ANY organization) threaten to wreak havoc on our schools, I can’t stand with them. We aren’t talking about a union that is fighting with a for-profit company with shareholders involved, we’re talking about a union that is trying to bleed dry a distract that already can barely stand on it’s own. The “district” isn’t just a bunch of adults, is nearly 40,000 kids who need to get an education.
    I believe that by striking, I will be supporting OEA’s political views and the methods they are using to get a raise from OUSD. Since I can’t see any feasible way for OUSD to give OEA members a raise without completely decimating other services and/or breaking contracts with other workers, I cannot support a strike. OEA also maintains that the strike is about other issues, such as Adult Ed, class sizes, etc. This is true, but during a budget crises, hard choices must be made.
    I have heard from many teachers that while they don’t really support the strike, they are still going to stay home. That choice is personal, but consider the fact that since OUSD has imposed a contract, a one-day strike is probably not going to change the terms of that contract. A prolonged strike might, but with serious repercussions for students and families. My opinion is that since I don’t support an indefinite strike, I also don’t support a one-day strike.
    In response to the commentary about executive salaries – yes, the Superintendent’s salary is high, but that won’t change the contract. It can be argued that OUSD needs a high executive salary to attract a candidate like Tony Smith, or we could have been stuck with the interim, Roberta Mayor, who was widely regarded as ineffectual.
    Overall, I do believe in the power an organized workforce, but not to the extent that I will do anything OEA tells me to when it goes against my core beliefs. I believe we could actually be more effective by organizing ourselves into an alternate body, ready to stand up for what we actually believe in, not what OEA tells us to believe in.