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By Julian Peeples and Gabriella Landeros

The 3,000 members of Oakland Education Association (OEA) are on strike today after Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) management failed to negotiate in good faith with educators.

While lively and strong, picket lines also had a somber feel as educators felt like negotiations didn’t have to reach this point. Sadly, the district seemed mired in its dysfunction and committed to bad-faith behavior at the bargaining table.

“OEA’s bargaining team of 50 educators from across Oakland Unified had planned to work through the night – if the other side showed up. Our goal was and still is to reach a contract settlement that serves our students and supports educators,” said special education teacher and OEA Interim President Ismael Armendariz. “But, our members have been clear that without an agreement a strike would begin the morning of May 4. Apparently, the district also wants a strike. They got one.”

The bargaining team spent yesterday ready and waiting for OUSD management to arrive to negotiate. OUSD administrators had promised to present a written contract proposal at 5 p.m., but they failed to appear. Last night at 9 p.m., OUSD – not OEA – announced through a news release that educators would be on strike.

Negotiations have been ongoing over the past week after many months of foot dragging and stonewalling by management that constituted an unfair labor practice. Even after district management began showing up to bargaining meetings, they were woefully unprepared, made non-serious offers and lacked the authority to make decisions on behalf of the district.

“We’re literally just waiting for the district to come with a comprehensive proposal that we can bargain with,” said OEA Bargaining Team member Jimmy Barbuto, a newcomer and social science teacher. “We want to end this and go back to our students. We miss them.”

Bilingual resource specialist Luz Chavez is on strike for the fourth time in her 15 years at OUSD. She said it feels like déjà vu to be on the picket line this morning.

“For far too long, Oakland educators have faced adversity in dealing with OUSD’s constant bad-faith behavior at the bargaining table. Educators are fed up and have been working tirelessly, fighting for all of Oakland’s students,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “Oakland educators have risen above to show OUSD that enough is enough, and we will remain behind them 100% in the fight for a livable wage, improved services for students with disabilities, additional mental health supports for students still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and investment in Historically Black Community Schools.”

Other issues at the bargaining table relate to special education needs, class size, safety issues and equitable treatment for schools in low-income areas, along with additional support for students in those schools.

“We’re fighting for our students in the neediest schools, we’re fighting for our members who are not heard,” Armendariz said. “We’re bargaining for the common good because that’s what our students need.”

At today’s midday rally at Oakland City Hall, Armendariz said Oakland educators will be on the picket lines again tomorrow morning, fighting for their students.

“OEA, may the fourth be with you,” Armendariz said, referring to the popular Star Wars-related saying. “This time, it’s the teachers who are striking back.”

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