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Oakland Unified Teachers Approve Contract After Seven Day Strike

By Michelle Wiley and Sara Hossaini - March 9, 2019

Oakland teachers voted to approve a new contract with the district on Sunday, March 3.

"Educators will be back in their classrooms Monday, knowing that students will benefit from the gains won in smaller class sizes, more student supports, and living wages that will help halt the teacher retention crisis in Oakland," the Oakland Education Association said in press release.

The teacher's union held a ratification vote at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland on Sunday afternoon. During the four hour session, teachers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians, speech pathologists, social workers, teacher substitutes and other support staff of the Oakland public schools voted and discussed the proposed contract.

The Oakland Education Association, the union representing some 3,000 teachers, nurses and counselors, said its membership voted on two tentative deals that comprised the new contract.

"The first tentative agreement, which deals mostly with the 3 percent retroactive bonus for 2017-18, was approved by a vote of 64 percent yes, 36 percent no, or 1,269 to 701. There were five abstentions," the union said in its press release.

The second tentative agreement included the wage increases and was approved by 58 percent or by 1,141 of the educators who voted, the union said. 42 percent, or 832 educators, voted no.

A simple majority was needed to approve both contracts.

The Oakland Unified School District and the union had reached a tentative agreement on Friday. Union officials had touted the deal — which includes a total salary increase of 11 percent over four years and a one-time 3 percent bonus — as a success.

But in the hours leading up to the vote, ratification looked far from certain, and the Oakland teachers' union ended up pushing their vote on the contract from Saturday to Sunday. An official with the Oakland Education Association said they made the change due to a "logistical and capacity issue."

"We have achieved so much in the seven days of our historic strike in Oakland," said union President Keith Brown at a press conference on Friday. "Our power in the streets prevailed."

Not everyone was happy with the agreement.

Nurses at OUSD said they felt stretched thin and that the deal on the table doesn't address it.

"We are furious and we feel like we've been completely thrown under the bus," said Sarah Boyd, union representative and nurse at Oakland Technical High School. "Our biggest ask was a caseload reduction, and in the tentative agreement we get a caseload increase."

Meanwhile, teachers were feeling pressured to reach an agreement.

"We're really annoyed that they're sending out notices saying that the strike is over," said Oakland Tech teacher Johanna Langill. "We haven't even voted yet."

In an open letter, some teachers said the proposed agreement did not adequately address the workload for nurses and counselors and does "nothing concrete to address school closures."

Earlier this week, tensions rose between teachers and board members of Oakland Unified. A video appeared to show OUSD board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge choking Oakland teacher Darnisha Wright during an altercation at the picket line.

"I think this is just another example of a lack of love and respect of teachers by our school board," Wright said. "It's a concrete example of a loss of ability to be rational and treat us with the respect and dignity that we deserve."

Wright said, at this point, she does not plan to press charges.

In a statement, Hodge said she'd inadvertently pushed up against Wright's neck during a chaotic exchange where protestors chained the door of the board room.

"I offer my sincerest apology to Ms. Wright. I acted out of fear and self-defense, and would never seek to hurt anyone, least of all a teacher," said Hodge in her statement.

Source: KQED News

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