Thousands of Oakland public school educators are walking off the job on Thursday as they call for improved working conditions and wages that would better keep pace with inflation and the high cost of living in the Bay Area.
The walkout by roughly 3,000 teachers, librarians, nurses and other staff members in the Oakland Unified School District left parents scrambling. Schools will be open, officials said, but classes are canceled for the 34,000 students in the school district, one of the state’s largest. The strike is the third that the Oakland Education Association, the union representing the educators, has authorized over the past five years. It does not have a set end date.
There have been a string of labor standoffs involving academic institutions in California. Teachers in Los Angeles went on a three-day strike in March in solidarity with bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other support staff members. Last fall, about 48,000 employees of the University of California system walked off the job, seeking better pay. In March 2022, teachers in Sacramento went on an eight-day strike before reaching a deal for higher salaries.
“This is a national crisis,” Ismael Armendariz, the president of the Oakland Education Association, said. “We have a huge teacher retention problem and recruitment problem. We are disrespected. We are not paid enough.”
Some parents condemned the strike plans, arguing that children had already missed too much school during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As Oakland district families, we are enraged by this action,” said an online petition signed by 660 people as of Wednesday evening. “Our kids’ education is too important to be used as a pawn by adults who are using bad-faith tactics in (what are supposed to be) good-faith negotiations.”
Armendariz said the Oakland Unified School District lost around 20 to 25 percent of its teachers every year to retirement and to other districts where the pay is higher. Salaries for teachers in Oakland are the lowest of any major urban district, he said.
The starting salary for a first-year teacher in the district is $52,905. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development classifies a salary under $50,000 for a single-person household in Oakland as “very low” and eligible for housing vouchers.
The district is proposing to raise first-year salaries to $63,604, a bump of about 20 percent. Veteran teachers would receive a 16 percent raise, to $109,746.
District officials say that their offer constitutes large wage increases, and they pleaded this week with teachers not to strike.
“Following all the turmoil and disruption of Covid, the idea that our children might be out of school yet again while both sides work to reach an agreement only harms our students and families,” the district said in a statement on Tuesday. “The adults need to be adults, so that students can be students.”
The union — which has been in negotiations with the district since the fall, when the last contract expired — has made other demands on the district, including hiring more nurses, providing more mental health support for students and improving services for students with disabilities.
The strike comes as public support for organized labor in the United States is at its highest point since the 1960s, and as many workers, emboldened by a tight job market but sensing a recession may be looming, rush to secure gains from employers.
In Oakland, educators say their teaching jobs are some of the most challenging in the Bay Area, and yet they are paid the least.
“There’s a lot of poverty, and sometimes there’s violence,” said Hilaria Barajas, a math and Spanish teacher in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. At the same time, teachers see other professionals in the Bay Area, especially in the tech industry, earning salaries many times higher. “That frustration brings us together,” Barajas said.
The rest of the news
Big tech: The State Legislature is considering a bill that would require companies like Google and Meta to pay media outlets for posting and using their news content, The Associated Press reports.
Abortion hotline: California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta, announced that a state-led coalition of law firms and advocacy groups was starting a hotline to provide resources and pro bono services for those seeking abortion care, The Associated Press reports.
D.U.I.: State Senator David Min, who’s running for Congress in a competitive Orange County district, was arrested for drunken driving this week, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Health insurance: A tax penalty established for Californians without health insurance was supposed to lower costs for those covered through the state’s medical plan, but that has happened only once, CalMatters reports.
Hollywood strike: Writers picketing the offices of companies like Netflix are critical of the streaming-era practices they say have made their work unsustainable.
Housing: Some of the lowest-wage workers in downtown Los Angeles fear that the city’s plan to increase the housing supply could push out garment businesses and cost them their jobs, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Mental health care workers: San Diego County supervisors are moving to address a shortage of mental health care workers that is likely to grow in the next five years, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Sleep issues: A new study says Fresno is the 10th-worst city in the country, and the second-worst in the state, for sleeping through the night, The Fresno Bee reports.
Fighting for anthropology: Students are staging an open-ended occupation of the anthropology library after the University of California, Berkeley, announced it would shutter the institution.
Budget cuts: The mayor of Oakland is proposing cuts to arts and culture programs to close the city’s budget gap, raising alarms from organizers who say the cuts could hurt communities of color, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Delayed opening: California State Parks issued a travel notice for the Tahoe region because of the historic snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, Times of San Diego reports.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Janet Walker:
As a former East Coaster and Manhattanite, the fantasy of driving the Pacific Coast Highway had always held some mythical allure. Over the pandemic, the road called, and after arriving in Monterey, walking along the stunning beaches, taking in the amazement of the moment, wandering through Cannery Row and, of course, trying to channel a bit of John Steinbeck, I was ready for the real reason for my trip, fulfilling my dream of driving the highway.
Driving from Monterey to Carmel on California 1 through the Big Sur coast is a best day entry and a must for tourists, travelers, wanderers and artists. It is inspiring, the hug of the coastline, with pull offs to capture the moment, the world-famous Bixby Bridge and along the way miles of gorgeous beaches, mountains and a horizon of blue ocean. Of course, the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach, named one of California’s most celebrated scenic highways in America, is a must for anyone drawn with the same magnetism to the exquisite beauty of the California coastline.
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Hannah René Shaw, known as the “Kitten Lady,” shares advice with her 1.2 million Instagram followers on what to do if you find a stray cat. They also follow her for the plethora of high-quality kitten photos featured on her account.
Some of those pictures were shot by Andrew Jared Marttila, who is known as the “Cat Photographer.” Often, the love in the photographs is palpable.
That’s because the kitten lady and the cat photographer fell in love — and were married last month at an animal rescue in California.
Read their story.
Correction: Monday’s newsletter referred imprecisely to the imprisonment of Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. They were imprisoned for most of the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, not the duration of the war. Many were initially reluctant to return home because they feared discrimination.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia, Isabella Grullón Paz, Johnna Margalotti and Camille Baker contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].
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