By Ken Epstein
Oakland educators and Port of Oakland dock workers are staging simultaneous one-day strikes Friday as a citywide movement continues to grow in response to billionaires and gentrifiers backed by elected Democrats seeking to close up to half of the city’s public schools and donate public funds and public land to build a $12 billion real estate deal and a baseball stadium at the port.
The strikes, along with rallies and a march, were proposed by a new coalition, Schools and Labor Against Privatization (SLAP) made up of grassroots educators, ILWU members and leaders and local members of the community to oppose the privatization of public assets and the accelerated displacement of black, Latino and working-class residents of Oakland.
Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association (OEA), announced the work stoppage of educators on Tuesday at a press conference. He said an overwhelming 75% of voting OAS members voted to authorize the one-day strike “because the Oakland Unified School District unilaterally canceled its 2019 agreement with the OAS to engage with families when reviewing school closures. OUSD has continued to ignore this important agreement despite outcry from families to end school closures.”
Trent Willis, former president of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), said the union had moved its annual May Day work stoppage meeting from Sunday to Friday so the two unions could unite to protest against the privatization of public resources.
Willis said longshore workers and school communities face the same adversaries.
“We have in common the same billionaire, John Fisher, also a funder of KIPP and Rocketship charter schools, who is trying to privatize our schools and ports,” he said. “Howard Terminal is key to our port infrastructure and crucial as the economic engine of the Bay Area. It is a link between the port’s cargo area, the ILWU training area and the ship’s turnaround. It is essential to keep trucks off the streets of West Oakland and is next to a fully functioning industrial railroad.
“Already the (public) price to build the luxury apartments and Stadium A is $1.3 million, (and) they want to close the public schools in Oakland? Not under our watch,” he said.
Willis added: “The ILWU is really excited about this coalition, Schools and Labor Against Privatization – in fact, SLAP is urging similar committees against privatization across the country.”
OAS President Brown said the strike is taking place because educators are taking “the next step to stop school closures that will displace thousands of students and disproportionately impact black students in Oakland. Educators say they (have) had enough. We have authorized an ULB (Unfair Labor Practices) strike day to let the district know that the refusal to honor agreements and have meaningful conversations about the impact of these school closures on communities of color is unacceptable.
“This plan to close schools in predominantly black and brown neighborhoods will accelerate charter growth and gentrification, leading to greater educational segregation and a financial drain. It’s already costing Oakland public schools $57 million a year,” he said.
“We call on our elected officials to provide students and schools with the support they need – instead of closing our schools – and to stop the disruption and dislocation of our students. Closing schools does not save money. Our students need more, not less.
He said that on April 29, teachers would picket all OUSD school sites at 6:30 a.m. .
The Oakland administration and school board has been rushing to close schools, ignoring its own policy and contractual commitments to implement commitments to talk to parents, teachers and the public about its proposals. . Rather than “engaging” with school communities, school closures are planned in concert with state leaders and their representatives, the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools. LK Monroe and the Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team (FCMAT).
OUSD has already closed about 20 schools since 2003. This year and next, the district plans to close about 12 more schools. Officials have repeatedly said OUSD will eventually have to close about half of its 80 public schools.
School workers from AFCME and SEIU 102 joined the strike. A representative of the Alameda Labor Council spoke at the OAS press conference, supporting the unions.
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell denounced the strike as an “illegal” work stoppage and urged parents and guardians not to send their children to school on Friday.
“While school buildings will be open on Friday and all employees are still required to come to work, we do not believe we will be able to cover the high number of anticipated staff absences with replacements or reassigned central office staff,” she said. . “Therefore, we ask all families not to send their children to school on Fridays. Absence will be excused and no student will be harmed by not attending school on that day.