Teachers’ union members vote on strike reauthorization
on November 16, 2010
Members of the Oakland teachers’ union voted tonight on whether to reaffirm its rejection of the teaching contract imposed by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in the spring, and authorize actions up to and including a district-wide strike.
The meeting, which was only open to union members, was held at Oakland Technical High School’s auditorium. After a brief gathering and welcome from union president Betty Olsen-Jones, attendees reviewed the bargaining history between the union and the district and engaged in debate on the motion before casting their votes.
The meeting comes on the heels of the failure of Measure L, the $195 parcel tax that would have generated $20 million per year for ten years to increase teacher salaries. The measure, which appeared on the November ballot a few weeks ago, was less than one percentage point shy of the two-thirds majority that it needed to pass.
“Out of 17 districts in California, Oakland has the lowest-paid teachers,” said Susan Townsend, a teacher at Carl Munck Elementary who voted yes on the motion. “It’s really hard working in Oakland. Even after 23 years of experience, it’s hard. Many of these new teachers don’t know that the only way to make it a better world for these kids is to make conditions better for teachers.”
But not every teacher who attended the meeting voted on the measure, and several commented that they were getting tired of negotiations. “I’ll just say that it was a paltry, paltry turnout and many of us felt that there was no point in having this discussion,” said Joyce Weisel, a teacher at Howard Elementary School, as she exited the meeting early.
The fact that the vote was a reauthorization of an existing position by the union may have contributed to the low turnout, said Trish Gorham, a second grade teacher at Kaiser Elementary who has served on the union’s executive board. “Coming back in the fall, certain members felt that we should make that reauthorization. I think the low turnout is probably partially because people feel like we already made that decision [to reject the district contract].”
Gorham who voted yes on the motion, said the general sentiment inside the meeting was to support the leadership of the union by voting yes on the reauthorization. “I mean, what other choice do we have, really?” she added.
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