“Oakland teachers have set a one-day strike for March 24, an action that could shut down schools unless district officials make major concessions at the bargaining table, union officials said Wednesday.
The strike could leave parents scrambling for child care and force the financially strapped district to decide whether to keep schools open with administrators and support staff in classrooms or tell students to stay home.
Teachers who represent the union at the school sites cast the strike votes this week, and the result was overwhelmingly for the one-day walkout, an action the union’s general membership, which includes 2,700 teachers, authorized in January.
The union cannot legally strike until the completion of a fact-finding process and a report is issued, possibly as early as next week.
Negotiators have been trying to reach a contract agreement for two years. Union officials said the major sticking points at the bargaining table include pay, class size increases and proposed staff reductions in the adult education programs.
“Nobody wants to see (the strike) – teachers, parents – nobody wants to see it,” said Betty Olson-Jones, president of the 2,700-member Oakland Education Association. “We really hope this will send a clear signal to the district.”
District officials said such a signal is unnecessary.
“We understand how serious they are,” said district spokesman Troy Flint. “We’ve both been working really hard to reach some kind of agreement.”
The two sides said Wednesday that they still hope to reach an agreement before the March 24 strike.
District administrators are expected to meet this week to decide what to do if the strike takes place. Flint said there would probably be an announcement next week to help families prepare.
The state is allowing districts to shorten the school year from a required 180 days to 175 to help cut costs this year. If the teachers strike, students wouldn’t have to make up the lost day, Flint said. It’s unclear whether the district would lose a day of state funding if class is canceled.
Olson said the union would call off the strike only if the fact-finding report is not finished or if the two sides reach a settlement that union negotiators feel they can take to their members.
“If we continue to stay so far apart, the strike is on,” she said.
Chabot Elementary School parent Craig Lauderdale said that the strike would probably cost his family hundreds of dollars in lost wages because of the need to stay home and take care of his children. “If we don’t work, we don’t get paid,” said Lauderdale, a longshoreman paid by the hour.
But he added that despite the financial hit, he would support the strike.
“I’ll be the first to say I support the teachers 150 percent,” he said.”
E-mail Jill Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.