Early picket lines

7 a.m.  Reporter Angela Hill met up with about a dozen strikers were out at Bret Harte Middle School this morning. They tried to get a substitute hired for the day to join them,  to no avail. Peter Mates, 63, a 7th grade teacher of English and Medieval literature, made sure he was there by 5 a.m. to try and stop the janitor from entering the school. He was unsuccessful.

“Since our teachers are so poorly paid, we can see why they would cross the picket line because they don’t want to lose a day’s pay,” Mates said. “But that would be disappointing. We’re hopeful that none will cross. But we expect that two out of 34 teachers will cross.”


Oakland teacher strike coverage

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be handing the blog over to my colleague Cecily Burt, who has kindly agreed to post reporters’ updates here while we’re out and about, along with a photographer. There’s also a live chat in the works.

I’ll be tweeting from the picket lines, too, starting at 7 a.m. Follow my updates here.

If you have any news tips tomorrow, please e-mail me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com and Cecily at cburt@bayareanewsgroup.com. Want to write about what you’ve seen and experienced? Please do! If you use your real name on the blog, even better…


On Thursday, what’s a school secretary to do?

school secretary, by savageartworks' photostream at flickr.com/creativecommons

Teachers will be on strike Thursday. But what about your school secretary and custodian? Your teacher’s aide (where applicable)?

There’s been some confusion among district employees about whether the `other unions’ — the SEIU and AFSCME, mainly — will show up to work or stand with the teachers. I can empathize with the confused: I contacted the local SEIU office at least twice, called the Pasadena-based employee hotline, questioned the public relations guy, e-mailed the OUSD rep and got nowhere.

Poor timing, maybe, but there might be another reason: These unions are in a tough spot. They reached agreements with the Oakland school district months ago, or even longer, and guess what? Those contracts include no-strike clauses. This means they can’t legally call a sympathetic strike. At the same time, as the SEIU media relations guy from Pasadena told me (before promising to call me back after he “double-checked,” which he didn’t), unions don’t make a habit of crossing other unions’ picket lines. And the Alameda Labor Council supports the teacher strike.

Continue Reading


Oakland school district: New downsizing details

The payroll of Oakland Unified, one of the city’s largest employers, is about to shrink. The school system would have about 460 fewer full-time positions — about 9 percent of the current workforce — come July 1, under the CFO’s latest proposal to address the district’s massive projected deficit. It will be discussed at Wednesday night’s 5 p.m. school board meeting.

Jobs of just about every shape and size would thin out under the plan: teachers, assistant principals, security officers, high-level district “executive staff,” gardeners, painters, clerks, support coaches for new teachers, adult education and child development teachers — you name it. The central office would eliminate 105 positions, about 17 percent of its staff. And 114 K-12 teaching positions would be reduced, about 6 percent.

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Union letter: Send your kids to school on Thursday, at their own risk

It’s official: The Oakland school district will hold school on Thursday, despite the one-day strike. So far, about 300 emergency teachers have cleared background checks, with more in the pipeline, according to district spokesman Troy Flint; at least 60 people from the central office will head out to the schools as well.

But just in case you were thinking about sending your kids to school on strike day, this letter from the Oakland teachers union — which was sent home with children in at least one school — warns that you might be placing them in harm’s way: Continue Reading


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

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 Continue Reading


Contract, imposed

It was unanimous. All seven members of the Oakland school board voted to immediately implement a contract for teachers — the same offer, made in December, that the union membership rejected.

Much of the audience cleared out soon after the vote — including me, because the district’s wireless Internet access was down, so I had to run home and send the story before my 9:15 deadline. But as I headed for the door, I heard Superintendent Tony Smith talking about new beginnings and pay increases for teachers. I stopped and pulled out my laptop again. Here’s what I was able to get down: Continue Reading


Oakland teachers start a blog on strike (and more)

OEA flierFrom the ongoing Oakland teacher contract dispute have emerged at least two new sources of information about the struggle.

Teachers have started a blog, recently posting a downloadable flier (cropped and posted here) and news about canvassing neighborhoods this weekend. The district administration hasn’t started its own website, but it has created a page to explain its position.

On a side note, I can’t find anyone who can remember a teacher contract being imposed in Oakland, as the school board might vote to do tomorrow night. Do you know if this would be a first?

I’ll be tweeting live at the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at 1025 Second Ave. If you’re not on Twitter, that’s OK, you can see the updates anyway by clicking here.


Will Oakland school board impose a contract?

They might. At a 6 p.m. special meeting on Wednesday, the Oakland school board votes on a resolution that would immediately implement the district’s “last, best and final offer” to the teachers, which was made last December and soundly rejected by the union’s membership.

You can read the resolution here and the full story here.

Do you think the board should change course and go back to the bargaining table? What should the union do?