Oakland Teachers Strike Over Forced Contract

By Jessica Greene
|  Thursday, Apr 29, 2010  |  Updated 8:45 AM PDT
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Oakland Teachers Strike Over Forced Contract

NBC Bay Area

Oakland teachers are striking for a day over a forced contract.

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Substitute teachers found on Craigslist are filling in at The Oakland Unified School District Thursday as the full-time teachers hold a day-long strike.

Teachers in Oakland have been working without a contract for two years. Last week, the school board voted to force a contract, which means no changes in pay, increased class sizes and using non-union workers for adult education. The teachers went to work planning the strike right away and started picketing at 5:30 a.m. Thursday.

District spokesman Troy Flint said the district hired about 300 replacement teachers. About 70 staff members from the central office also will spend the day teaching.

He admitted that the number of teachers on duty will be "far less than normal" and that it won't be a normal school day.

But, he said, "We need to provide a safe place for students whose parents can't afford to take the day off to care for them or hire babysitters."

Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland Education Association, which represents about 2,500 teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians, said teachers are staging the one-day strike to call attention to their stalled contract talks and their salaries, which she said are the lowest in Alameda County.

"People are fired up," Olson-Jones said. "We're keeping our options open for further actions" in  the future.

Oakland's school board voted last week to impose a contract on the teachers' union after more than two years of negotiations failed to bring an agreement on a new contract. Olson-Jones said she's encouraged that the school board said Tuesday night that it's open to resuming contract talks in early May.

Flint said that although the school board voted to impose a contract, "We always intended to return to the bargaining table."

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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