Teachers sit on the steps at Frank Ogawa Plaza holding signs demanding higher pay.
Oakland teachers host unauthorized strike and rally during contract negotiations with the district in Oakland, Calif. on Mar. 24, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

The Oakland Education Association announced late on Monday that its nearly 3,000 members will go on strike starting May 4 unless the union and school district can come to an agreement on a new contract. 

OEA, which represents teachers, counselors, nurses, substitutes, and social workers, is striking to protest unfair labor practices at Oakland Unified School District, interim president Ismael Armendariz said. In March, the union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Public Employee Relations Board, alleging that the district has canceled bargaining sessions, failed to offer meaningful counter proposals, and declined to discuss certain items, Armendariz said. 

“The district continues to come to the table unprepared, and this is unacceptable,” Armendariz said during a news conference on Monday. “We promise you, we’ve done everything we can to avert this strike. The district has truly failed our students and the time for us to act is now.”

OUSD released a statement Monday evening expressing disappointment in the union’s announcement, but saying it remains committed to continuing negotiations this week. 

“We remain optimistic that we will collectively come to a resolution in time to prevent the teachers from hitting the picket lines, and keeping our kids in school,” read the statement.

The union and the school district have been bargaining over a new contract since October, when the previous contract expired. In recent weeks, some of OEA’s rank-and-file members held an unauthorized walk-out, and last month the union began surveying its members on their desire to strike. On April 25, OEA announced that a majority of its members had voted to authorize a strike.

School district leaders reiterated that they are focused on increasing teacher salaries to slow teacher attrition. 

“While I deeply support our teachers and other educators district wide, and would love to provide them with all of the things they’ve asked for at the table, we must prioritize our resources to ensure that every student in OUSD has a qualified teacher,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell in a statement last week. “This means we must compensate our teachers.”

On Tuesday morning, OUSD released its latest compensation proposal, which includes a 10% raise retroactive to Nov. 1, 2022 and a one-time $5,000 payment to all members. OUSD’s proposal would also collapse several steps in the district’s salary schedule so it doesn’t take teachers as long to reach maximum pay, and eliminate pay plateaus that currently block teachers from receiving pay increases for several years at a time.

In OEA’s compensation proposal from April 25, the union asked for a 10% retroactive raise to all members, a one-time payment of $10,000 for members who return in the 2023-2024 school year, and increases of $7,500 to $10,000 to base salaries, depending on years of experience.

Beyond pay adjustments, OEA has also made several “common good” proposals, which concern things like community schools, shared school leadership, safety, and support for students. One proposal calls for the district to use its empty school sites as housing for homeless students.

“If kids and their basic needs are not met, teaching and learning is very challenging, so we think we have an opportunity here to partner together,” said Vilma Serrano, the bargaining co-chair for OEA.

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.