Oakland teachers strike for 3rd day, 'common good' proposals at issue in negotiations

ByAmanda del Castillo and Lena Howland, Anser Hassan KGO logo
Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Oakland teachers strike for 3rd day, 'common good' proposals at issue
The Oakland teachers strike continued for a third day on Monday. And though there appeared to be progress with negotiations, neither side met.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Monday marked day three of the teachers strike in Oakland.

With no deal yet, some Oakland Unified School District board members stood up in favor of their teachers, to push for what they're calling "common good" goals to be written into the contract.

As teachers marched through the streets of Oakland, they pushed for not only better pay and working conditions, but also, common good goals.

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Something the teacher's union, Oakland Education Association, says they've made progress on, after meeting with OUSD negotiators until 2 a.m. on Monday.

"So we still have some big items on the table, special education, salary and common good," Ismael Armendariz, President of the Oakland Education Association said. "They've been telling us all week they couldn't negotiate common good and last night, we broke through. They told us they could bargain an MOU."

The union says that MOU or Memorandum of Understanding means the district has agreed to consider common good items.

Its progress he attributes to the days of demonstration but still not enough to strike a deal.

"Negotiating for common good goals, really is, what has to be done and we have to do what our teachers are doing," Jennifer Brouhard, the Oakland Unified School District 2 Director said. "Our teachers are willing to go on strike over it, we have to be willing to negotiate at the table."

"Fighting for what their students need, is just as important as their compensation," she said.

Meanwhile, half of the school board including former teacher, Jennifer Brouhard, is pushing for the same common good goals, such as housing for homeless students and families, reparations and shared governance, issues she experienced first-hand in the classroom.

"I know that all of these issues that are in the common good goals, I saw in the classroom, unhoused youth, many of my students were unhoused, many of my students needed mental health services and these are things that matter to our students and to their education," she said.

The district has not publicly confirmed it is negotiating common good items even though union negotiators say they are.

School Board President Mike Hutchinson is calling on the union to return to the bargaining table and says while they agree on the principles of common good goals, they don't belong in the contract.

"So items that are outside of the scope of the contract which are basically compensation and work conditions are not going to be negotiated," Mike Hutchinson, the Oakland Unified School Board President said.

"Many of the items that I've seen listed as common good, are either things we already have policies and directions for within the district or there are many items that are contained within the contract, such as mental health services is something that's been negotiated."

Without any further negotiations or a deal made on Monday, teachers are poised to return to the picket lines for day four, come Tuesday.

RELATED: Oakland teachers strike to continue Monday if no deal is made

On Sunday, there was a breakthrough at the bargaining table between the Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland Education Association.

"It's huge. I'm mean these wins will be big for our schools, for our communities," said Hilara Barajas on Sunday, an Oakland teacher who is on the OEA's Common Good proposal team.

The OEA, which is the union representing teachers, says the school district's team now has the authority to negotiate the full, comprehensive package the union has been demanding. It breaks the deadlock around common good proposals, which are related to issues outside of the classroom curriculum. It includes topics like homelessness, environmental justice, and shared governance.

"I think a big thing for us right now is shared governance. We want students, families, communities, and educators all to have a say in how schools are run. That's really important to us," explains Barajas.

Previously, OUSD was only willing to negotiate on employee compensation. It stated that common good proposals were not mandatory to negotiate by law.

"I believe that it has been the strike that has really pushed us into really exposing how dysfunctional this process has been," says Vilma Serrano, Co-Chair of the OEA bargaining team.

Serrano says negotiations have progressed enough to where "concrete proposals" are now on the table. But adds, big gaps still exist, especially related to non-teaching staff.

"We actually learned that we are much further apart, even on the TK-12 compensation than we initially thought. So, the progress is still limited," she says.

Previously, the school district only sent two negotiators to meet with the union's 50-member bargaining team. The district declined to comment but issued a statement highlighting salary increases. It reads in part, "Providing this HISTORIC increase is no small feat. We've put all our money on the table to take care of our teachers and there is not much room to do anything else."

California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond of Public Instruction was also in attendance this weekend for part of the negotiations.

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Serrano says she wants the community to understand that while teacher salaries are important, it is just as important to understand that bargaining the full package is an attempt to keep up with the times.

"The reason why we have expanded the scope of what we are bargaining is because the job has become different. The needs of our students have become different," says Serrano.

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