Oakland teachers and supporters march in front of La Escuelita Elementary School holding signs that they are on strike.
Parents, students, teachers, and allies march in front of La Escuelita Elementary School protesting school closures during a one-day strike on April 29, 2022. Credit: Harvey Castro

This story was updated at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3.

The Oakland Education Association, which represents nearly 3,000 teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, and substitutes, announced on Monday that it will go on strike beginning tomorrow, May 4, unless it reaches an agreement before then with Oakland Unified School District. The union has been negotiating for a new contract with OUSD since October.

By 4 p.m. on Wednesday, OUSD had released an update saying, “After six full days and nights of contract negotiations with the Oakland Education Association (OEA), we believe that a deal with our Teachers’ Union is within reach.”

OEA posted on Twitter shortly before 5 p.m. that the “team is working hard to reach an agreement.”

But at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, OUSD issued another statement confirming that OEA will be moving ahead with its strike on Thursday, as planned.

We’ve compiled answers to several questions that are likely on the minds of many OUSD families and others. 

Will OUSD schools be open?

OUSD schools will remain open, but they won’t be operating as normal. Principals and other school support staff will be monitoring classes and supervising students who attend. State and federally funded afterschool programs will also be open, but students can only attend them if they went to school during the day. School meals, including breakfast and lunch, will also be available on campuses. Students who do not attend school during a strike will receive an “excused absence,” and the absence will not count toward truancy. For more information, OUSD published a resource guide for families. 

Why are OUSD teachers going on strike?

OEA is going on strike to protest unfair labor practices of the school district, which union leaders say include negotiating in bad faith by coming to bargaining sessions unprepared and not making meaningful counter-proposals. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against OUSD in March with the California Public Employee Relations Board, which oversees negotiations between public agencies and employees.

What are OEA and OUSD negotiating over, and how far apart are the sides?

The contract dictates things like pay, hours, the school calendar, class sizes, and other working conditions for OEA members. The union’s last contract expired in October, and OUSD and OEA have been negotiating a new one since then. The latest offer from OUSD includes a retroactive 10% raise for all members, plus a one-time payment of $5,000. The salary schedule for K-12 teachers would also be adjusted so that teachers no longer go several years of working without pay increases, and base salaries on the pay scale would also see increases. According to OUSD, the raises would amount to 13-22% for teachers. 

OEA has asked for salary increases of about 23%, which members say would put their pay in line with median teacher pay in Alameda County. The union has also proposed several “common good” demands, like creating shared leadership structures in schools, fully implementing the district’s Reparations for Black Students policy, guaranteeing one year of community engagement before closing schools, and providing housing and transportation for unhoused students.  

Both teams post their proposals publicly: Here is the OEA page, and the OUSD page that lists their contract proposals. 

Yes. Before OEA’s strike announcement, the school district filed an injunction with the Public Employees Relations Board to attempt to stop it, on the grounds that the union had not gone through the necessary steps to authorize a strike. But PERB denied the request, which cleared the way for OEA to legally strike over unfair labor practices. 

This is unlike the teachers’ 2019 strike, which happened after mediators were called in, a six-week fact-finding period happened, and an impasse was declared. The 2019 strike also came after two years of stalled negotiations. 

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.