Oakland Education Association pursues wacky ‘safety’ negotiations

Widespread illness and quarantine have completely disrupted classes in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), as the Omicron variant causes record cases and hospitalizations in Alameda County. To defend themselves, the teachers carried out a series of savage work stoppages. The students went on an indefinite strike last Monday.

To contain growing anger, the Oakland Education Association (OEA) has threatened to call a vote for a ‘security’ strike with utterly helpless demands that would do next to nothing to protect students, teachers and staff. against infection.

Teachers demonstrate for stricter COVID-19 safety protocols outside the Oakland Unified School District headquarters on January 7, 2022, in Oakland, California. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

According to an OAS email sent to teachers, their demands are as follows:

  1. Weekly voluntary testing available for students and staff at all schools
  2. Highest quality masks available for all students and staff
  3. One adult covering each vacant class place

The popular and essential request raised by many students and teachers to switch to distance learning until the cases are resolved is being intentionally ignored.

The situation facing students and teachers is dire. Daily new confirmed cases in Alameda County are four times higher than at any other time during the pandemic, while the test positivity rate is near 20%, indicating that many cases are not are not detected. Despite misinformation claiming that the Omicron variant is benign, this has resulted in record hospitalizations nationwide. Pediatric hospitalizations in particular are three times higher than their previous peak.

At a public meeting of striking students on Friday, studentsdescribed the impact of seeing classmates and teachers sick, and their fear of spreading a deadly disease to friends and family. According to a sixth-grade student: “There are a large number of students who have come out in several classes. I’ve seen so many of my friends not come to school for weeks because the district’s plan as a whole to make sure COVID doesn’t spread has been poor to say the least.

Oakland teachers and students are part of a larger wave of strikes by educators across the country against the bipartisan policy of mass infection. Over the past week, students and teachers have been on strike in St. Paul, Minnesota; Montgomery County, Maryland; Denver, Colorado; Round Rock, TX; and Park City, Utah. The rising number of infections has led many districts to switch to distance learning simply because they lack staff to teach in person, including 250 districts in Oklahoma.

In order to save the lives of teachers, staff, students and their families, West RatingEducators Classify and storeSecurity The committee held weekly meetings with the demand for “the immediate closure of school buildings until the teachers themselves, on the advice of scientists, determine that it is safe to return” and “financial support for parents who have to stay home with their children. ”

In stark contrast, the OAS is trying to keep schools open even as the disease soars. Their demand for “safe staffing levels” is particularly pernicious. In a draft memorandum of understanding released Thursday, the OAS proposes assigning central office administrators to replace sick teachers to address the shortage of substitute teachers.

Students need a safe education, not babysitters! No student can learn effectively with a revolving door of emergency substitutes. No teacher can teach effectively with 20% or more of their class sick or in quarantine. In poll after poll, parents are expressing a desire for distance education, but the district is refusing to offer it and teachers’ unions are refusing to fight for it because the political decision was made by the Biden administration that the schools must remain in person no matter what. many people are infected.

At every stage of the pandemic, the OAS Board of Trustees has fought to limit teacher activism within limits set by the district. OUSD initially switched to distance learning in March 2020 to avoid wildcat strikes. When the district demanded a return to in-person instruction in March 2021, the OASdropped teachers’ demand that in-person education be tied to low community transmission. Despite widespread opposition among core teachers, the union insisted they must vote for the district’s proposal because if the teachers reject it, the district could adopt it unilaterally.

By accepting in-person instruction, regardless of the severity of the pandemic condition, the OAS has set the stage for the current crisis. As the Omicron variant began to surge over the winter break, the union remained passive, only asking teachers to write emails to the superintendent. When teachers and students began their savage actions to fight COVID, the OAS executive remained silent as it negotiated a new memorandum of understanding with the district behind members’ backs. In protest at his exclusion from the process, the union’s safety bargaining team resigned on January 11.

The way forward for teachers and students requires rejecting in its entirety the policy of mass infection carried out with the support of the OAS leadership. We urge all teachers, students, staff and parents looking to fight for school closures to register here to create or join a grassroots safety committee at your school site.

Andrew B. Reiter