OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - Nearly 1,000 Oakland public school teachers, students, parents and others rallied outside Oakland City Hall on Thursday in support of a teacher strike that began earlier in the day.
At 6:30 a.m., three or four dozen teachers walked in a circle outside Oakland Tech High School holding green signs that read "On Strike Against Unfair Labor Practices." The picketing continued throughout the day, with a massive crowd converging at Oakland City Hall at noon. "Don't starve our teachers," was a popular sign and slogan.
Keith Brown, the president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents the school district's 3,000 teachers, said at the rally in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, "This is one of the most inspiring days of my life and we are making history today."
The strike, which occurred after two years of failed negotiations between the union and the school district, is the first potentially long-term walkout by Oakland teachers since 1996, when they went on strike for more than two months.
Teachers staged a one-day strike on April 29, 2010, to protest stalled contract talks and the school board's decision to impose a contract on the union.
Brown said on Wednesday that the union is hoping that the strike is short but said its length is "indefinite" and will last for more than one day.
He also said the two sides will meet again at 9 a.m. Friday.
The disrict's 2,300 teachers are demanding a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the exorbitantly expensive San Francisco Bay Area.
They also want the district to hire more counselors to support students and more full-time nurses.
The Oakland Educators Association called for the strike Wednesday after rejecting a proposal from the district for a 7 percent raise over four years and a one-time 1.5 percent bonus.
At Oakland Tech, some of the students also joined the picket line.
"The problems keep on stacking up," Orlando Scott. said "The class sizes and lack of resources in general. This year it was so noticeable. Our teachers had to make resources for us out of their own pockets. There’s not enough books in the classrooms so instead they make Google slide presentations. I feel like all that stuff is frustrating and that’s why we should be out here.”
Similar scenes and sentiments replicated themselves at schools throughout the district.
“We are all bilingual because of this school," said a parent at Manzanita Elementary School. "My kids know who they are and where they come from and what their language is because of these amazing teachers. And I just hope that they get what they deserve. And I hope our kids get what they deserve as well.”
The strike has some parents in a tough situation. Teachers want them to join the picket line or keep kids home from school. But some working parents feel they have no choice but to bring their kids to class anyway.
The district is also in support of teachers, but officials said there just isn't enough money to pay them what they want and deserve.
"Everyone knows teachers need to make more money. We support all that. It's a matter of what can we do within our financial ability," said district spokesman John Sasaki. But the district is facing a $21 million deficit.