Oakland Wildcat Teachers Strike
On December 10, teachers from five Oakland high schools staged a wildcat “sickout” strike and rally in Oscar Grant Plaza. The teachers are represented by the Oakland Educators Association, which did not sanction the strike, although teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017.
The strike was initiated by teachers from Oakland High School where over 85 percent of teachers participated, despite threats from the district. A majority of teachers from Madison Park Academy, Fremont High School, Oakland Technical High School and Castlemont High School also joined.
OUSD teachers are among the lowest paid teachers in the Bay Area, and many can not afford to live in the district, particularly with the tech-fueled housing crisis/gentrification. The district has offered 5 percent over the next three years, while the teachers are demanding 12 percent. Teachers are also demanding better conditions, including smaller class sizes and in-school resources.
OUSD is chronically under-funded, due in large part to Proposition 13 and other limits on corporate taxes, including the inability of Oakland to set taxes on the port. In 2003 the state took over the district, appointing a trustee who over-rode the local school board, closed schools, and abolished many community-initiated programs. In 2009 some home-rule was restored, but the district remains under the jurisdiction of the state’s Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FMCAT). Part of the district’s budget deficit is due to the continual repayment of debt to the state accrued under the trustee. On November 14, the OUSD superintendent presented a preliminary report suggesting the closure or merger of 23 out of 76 OUSD schools, and removing up to 340 positions. Meanwhile, charter schools continue to receive about $57 million per year.
Victory at the Marriott
On December 3, workers at the San Francisco marriott hotels ratified an agreement that ended their 9 week strike. In early October, workers in California marriotts in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and San Diego, as well as Boston, Detroit, Honolulu and Lahaina, walked out over wages and working conditions. The contracts were settled one city at a time, with San Francisco’s hotels the last hold-out.
“One job should be enough,” was a major slogan in the SF strike, given the gap between the marriott pay, and the cost of living. Marriott refused to attend a hearing by the SF board of supervisors during the strike.
The strike settled with a retroactive $1.75 per hour increase in pay, and additional raises over the next four years. UNITE HERE, the union representing the workers, also won contractual provisions to protect workers from sexual harassment and other forms of workplace violence and layoffs due to automation. The contracts provide up to 5-year leaves of absence for workers caught up in immigration proceedings, permitting them to return to their same job and seniority.
Another issue in the strike was the “Green Choice” program, which lowers the room charges in exchange for customers not having daily housekeeping service. This creates a much greater workload for housekeepers, since check-out rooms require more cleaning, while the daily services are eliminated. According to a Union report, this has led to increased injuries, and reductions in hours.
One factor in winning these contracts was that several organizations that had planned large meetings at the marriotts notified the hotels that they would cancel if the strike was not settled. This is part of UNITE HERE’s Fair Hotel Campaign, which includes model language for organizations that permits last minute cancellation in the event of a labor dispute.
Strike at Kaiser Mental Health
On December 10, workers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) began a five-day strike against kaiser’s mental health facilities. Charging that kaiser does not provide adequate programs or staffing, thousands of psychologists, therapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and addiction medicine specialists walked off the job. They were supported by other NUHW members, including dietitians, audiologists, speech pathologists, health educators, and optical workers. The California Nurses Association also supported the picket line.
The strikers charged that kaiser fails to provide sufficient services, so that patients are forced to wait a month or longer for an initial appointment. In 2013, California’s Department of Managed Health Care fined Kaiser $4 million for violating the state’s Mental Health Parity Act and Timely Access to Care standards. The practices continued, resulting in two subsequent reports documenting violations, and last year kaiser was required to accept outside monitoring of its mental health services. Although kaiser is a non-profit, NUHW reported that kaiser made $2.9 billion in the first 9 months of 2018, and $3.8 billion in 2017. This money goes into executive compensation and benefits. According to NUHW, kaiser has $42 billion in cash and investments.
Chicago Charter School Teachers Win Contract
On December 9, the Chicago Teachers Union announced a tentative agreement with Acero charter schools, settling a 4-day strike. This is the first successful strike against a charter school company. Acero, which operates 15 schools, has agreed to raise pay for teachers and paraprofessionals to be closer to that paid in Chicago Public Schools, to reduce class sizes, and to provide sanctuary for undocumented students. Acero will also more closely match the school day and school year length of the public schools.
Earlier this year, the CTU merged with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. Only about 11 percent of charter schools nationwide are unionized, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, although 25 percent of Chicago charter schools are union.
Last year, Acero was rebranded from UNO Charter Schools Network, which has had many scandals, including being charged in federal court for defrauding investors.