AFSCME Stands Strong with Oakland Teachers as They End Weeklong Strike, Win New Contract

AFSCME members in Northern California stood strong with teachers in Oakland as the educators held a seven-day strike to win a new contract and an 11% raise.

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) educators and Oakland Education Association (OEA) members have endured overcrowded classrooms, unsafe caseloads for support staff and the lack of a living wage for far too long. Striking since Feb. 21, they wanted the district to resolve these issues, which make providing high-quality education to students more difficult.

In addition to winning an 11% pay increase for teachers over three years, the OEA members won a one-time 3-percent bonus and an agreement with the school district that includes provisions to cut class sizes and puts a hold on school closures for five months.

"The real victory of our historic strike for the schools our students deserve lies in the power and unity we built at our school sites, in our union, and in the city of Oakland," OEA said in a statment. "Tens of thousands of Oaklanders of all ages joined us on our picket lines and at our mass rallies and actions."

Melisha Linzie, a paraeducator and vice president of AFSCME Local 257, a local comprised of OUSD custodians, food service workers, licensed vocational nurses and paraeducators, was among those standing on the front lines with her fellow educators.

“I look at myself in two parts: a paraeducator and a union officer. As a union leader, I want to support my union brothers and sisters. As someone that works in the classroom with the teacher, I understand their concerns and believe in their struggle,” said Linzie. “Addressing the concerns that our teachers are fighting for will help retain qualified teachers … so students get the education they deserve.”

Council 57 provided coffee, doughnuts and lunch for strikers on the picket lines at a number of schools in the area.

Samineh “Sam” Hamidi, a 10th grade paraeducator and a Local 257 member, said, “It’s really difficult to provide quality education for a large class—sometimes up to 28 students—with only one teacher and support staff. When teachers benefit, the entire education system.”

Hamidi added, “I’ve been working with the district over seven years and I’m still there because of my students. I love my students. Watching them succeed is what keeps us going. Sometimes we have to pay out of pocket to provide booklets and supplies for our students.”

The Oakland teacher strike is hardly the first such action AFSCME members have embraced. Our members have also been standing with teachers in Arizona, West Virginia and Los Angeles as they fight for better education and to improve their communities.