Oakland teacher strike inspires other Bay Area school districts to follow


Amanda Peterson

Keith Brown, President of Oakland Education Association speaks at the Teachers Strike rally in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Oakland, Calif. (AMANDA PETERSON/ SPECIAL TO GOLDEN GATE XPRESS)

Keith Brown, President of Oakland Education Association speaks at the Teachers Strike rally in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Oakland, Calif. (AMANDA PETERSON/ SPECIAL TO GOLDEN GATE XPRESS)


In the wake of the successful Oakland teacher strike two weeks ago, educators across the Bay Area are rallying together to improve their wages and work conditions.

On March 15, the Sacramento City Teachers Association announced 92 percent of its members voted in favor of authorizing a strike against their school district.

Simultaneously 98 percent of the Dublin Teachers Association approved of a strike after a 12-hour bargaining session with Dublin Unified School District resulted in no agreement.

However, these votes don’t guarantee that a strike will happen since there are additional steps that need to be taken before a strike can proceed.

“Voting to authorize a strike is not the same as going on strike. There are steps in the mediation process that must be followed before a strike can happen, even if the union has authorized that action,” Dublin Unified School District spokesperson Chip Denhert said.

The bargaining process for teachers can take long periods of time to finalize, according to Alameda Education Association President Judith Klinger.

“We as public employees do not have free strike rights, so we can’t just decide we’re pissed off we’re going to walk out the next day,” Klinger said.

Teacher unions in the East Bay representing Oakland, Emeryville, Hayward, San Lorenzo, Alameda, Albany, and Castro Valley formed a coalition to get more state funding for education. They plan to have another rally in Sacramento on April 3.

SF State alumnus and high school director of the executive board of the Alameda Education Association, Christopher Holmes doesn’t think Alameda teachers will be bargaining for long.

“Alameda is the lowest paying school district in Alameda County when you include benefits on top of salary. Our ask is that our district raises our wages to the county average at the very least,” Holmes said.

The district received a 5 percent raise this year, but the school district is still 12 to 15 percent behind the average, according to Holmes.

Tamara Henry, a math coach at Garfield Elementary school participated in the Oakland teacher strikes and said she is happy to see other educators create changes to the education system.

“I’m grateful that we were able to serve as a model for teachers [and] unions feeling empowered to take action, and raise awareness about what’s going on in the teaching profession right now,” Henry said.

SF State student and Oakland school district intern Nina Morente said the support Oakland received since the strike has been rewarding since she believes that the city is usually overlooked by the state in regards to funding.

“Oakland is setting a standard for urban public education all over the nation because public education needs to be changed in America,” Morente said.

West Oakland Middle School teacher Jazmine Njissang participated in the strikes and thinks that though there is still more work to be done, the strike helped bring attention to this issue on a national level.

“We realized that this strike was important because it raised awareness across the state and country about the injustice within our national education system,” Njissang said.

California Faculty Association organizer Maureen Loughran said there will be work done to find ways to address some of the concerns that still remain.

“There’s definitely people organizing to figure out how to stop the privatization and [chartering] of the school district,” Loughran said.

California Federation of Teachers spokesperson Matthew Hardy said in an email, “We stand with these teachers and all who are standing up to demand funding for our schools.”

Jazmine Njissang said the Oakland teacher strike helped bring the community together and that’s what helped inspire other schools to make the same decision.

During our strike we had on average about 90-95 percent of students not attending schools, which means the community stood with us,” Njissang said. “That kind of support shows everyone else that the people of our communities will support us in efforts to make school better for their children. This shows that mobilizing will get an outcome geared toward change.”