Author Archive

Labor Convergence on Climate

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Title: Labor Convergence on Climate
Location: Zero Net Energy Center ~ 14600 Catalina St., San Leandro
Link out: Click here

Start Time: 09:00
Date: 2019-04-13
End Time: 16:00


Thursday, February 28th, 2019


By David Bacon
Truthout Photoessay, 2/26/19

Teachers and students carry a banner from their school, Oakland Technical High School.

Students and parents have come out en masse to join the marches and picket lines of the ongoing teachers strike in Oakland, California. All say that they are trying to save the city’s public school system.

“This is a strike to save our district,” said Heath Madom, who’s taught 10th grade English for three years at Oakland Technical High School, which is referred to as “Tech” by educators and pupils. “Our Tech community is committed to saving public education. Twenty-four schools are on the chopping block. We could become like New Orleans, with no public schools and all charters, if this keeps going.”

Like other teacher strikes around the country, the Oakland conflict is fueled both by a determination to protect the public school system itself and by the crisis in funding that has led to huge classes and deteriorating conditions in the schools themselves. According to Madom and the Oakland Education Association, only 5 percent of the district’s 37,000 students have passed through their schools’ doors over the last three days – evidence of vehement parent and community support.

Parents, students and teachers all condemn the rise in class sizes. “My class is a catch-all, because all students have to take it, so class size is a huge issue,” said Rho Seidelman, who’s taught ethnic studies at Tech for three years. “There’s no tracking, which is great, because we have students from all backgrounds and previous schools. But it’s hard to build community among the students when there are so many. The contract says 32 is the limit, and I routinely have at least 33. Research shows that the best learning environment is in a class of 18, where students can really learn and build community. When students are absent and my class size goes down to 28 or 26, I’m really happy.”

Madom says most classes at Tech have 35-40 students, and the school, built for 1,800, has a student body of 2,000. “We only have two part-time nurses for 2,000 students, and they don’t have the time or resources to deal with all their medical problems. We have a beautiful library, but haven’t had a librarian for years. Our counselors have a caseload of 500 students apiece. If they saw every student, they would only be able to spend a few minutes with each,” Madom said. The hiring of more nurses, librarians and counselors is part of the strike demands of the union, the Oakland Education Association, which is affiliated with the National Education Association (NEA).

Teachers’ pay is also part of the strike demands. The union wants a 12 percent raise over 3 years, and the district is stuck at 7 percent with a bonus. “The only reason I can live in Oakland is because I live with a partner who has a good income,” Seidelman said. “What I make is not enough to live here. I’m still paying off my school loans, and rent takes up almost half my income. My job would clearly be improved if we won the demands of our strike, and I, and other teachers too, would be more likely to stay.”

“People here are struggling,” Madom added. “Some teachers are commuting long distances to get here. We had seven excellent teachers leave this year, including two English teachers with more than five years [of] experience.”

Prior to the strike, a state fact-finder’s report found that the teacher retention crisis in Oakland is worse than most other districts in the state, which the state attributes to substandard pay, the lowest among the Bay Area’s districts. The fact-finder also mandated reducing class sizes, especially for special education classes, and concluded that school privatization was hurting students.

Slating 24 schools for closure is part of the privatization regime, Madom argued, adding that the closures are hitting communities that have been historically underserved the hardest. “At the same time, the district has allowed charter schools to proliferate, which is a direct reason why enrollment has declined in public schools they now want to close,” Madom added. “Yet there’s no discussion of closing any of the charters.” Those charter schools already enroll 13,000 students in Oakland.

Seidelman said these priorities are part of a culture in Oakland that favors development to benefit the affluent. “If it was up to a popular vote, our community would support the strike’s demands overwhelmingly. But our community is not in control of the basic decisions in the city. The strike has exposed the political corruption in Oakland city politics. The terrible condition of our schools is a consequence of the policies imposed by business interests. The resources of the city go to gentrification, which benefits them, but not our communities. It’s true all over the country, which is why there are strikes now in so many places. It’s not just a problem of Oakland.”

But the national teachers’ strike wave is challenging those priorities. “It’s shifting the narrative on public education,” Madom said. “The charter industry has claimed that poor students don’t get the education they deserve because of poor teachers. Public school teachers haven’t been heard until now. We do need great teachers, but the problems of our schools aren’t due to individual teachers. The district for years hasn’t funded classrooms adequately, but the state also has grossly underfunded education. California has a massive amount of wealth. I can’t believe we’re living in one of the richest states in the country, and yet there’s no money for education. We’re tired of putting up with austerity. The strike wave is happening because teachers are standing up, and saying ‘enough is enough’.”

After talks broke down on February 24, sending the strike into its third day, Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, told reporters that the district had “returned to the table without a proposal that would begin to meet our core bargaining demands [which include an obligation to] fully fund our schools and provide a living wage to keep teachers in Oakland.”

Novelist Alice Walker was among many celebrities and political figures to rally behind the teachers. “You should be given, really, anything you ask for,” she said in a letter. “It is criminal that you are not. Especially when we see it is the war effort, more often than not, that is supported lavishly. An effort that often cuts short the very lives you have lovingly prepared to live with understanding and intelligence in this world. Know that you have sisters and brothers who stand with you, heart to heart.”

The majority of the following photographs were taken on the strike’s first day, February 21, when teachers, parents and students rallied in front of the Oakland City Hall, and then marched through downtown streets to the offices of the Oakland Unified School District.  All photos (c) David Bacon.

Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, and other teachers lead a march through downtown Oakland.

Teachers and community members support one of the strike’s demands – funding the district’s restorative justice program, an alternative to traditional school discipline.

Students, parents and teachers demonstrate support for the strike.

The strikers march behind their banner down Broadway, in downtown Oakland.

Liz Ortega, executive secretary of the Alameda Labor Council, behind the banner during the march.

Striking teachers during the march.

Teachers and community members march behind a banner opposing the closure of 24 schools, which targets schools in the Oakland flatlands, predominantly low-income communities of color.

A student shows her support for raising teachers’ salaries.

Students and parents sing, “Which side are you on?”

Teachers and community activists in a rally before the march.

Teachers with the basic demand of the strike – funding public schools.

Students and parents at the rally in front of Oakland City Hall.

Heath Madom talks with other teachers at a meeting in front of Oakland Technical High School.

International Women’s Day Rally

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Title: International Women’s Day Rally
Location: One South Van Ness, SF
Link out: Click here

The unions have made proposals to protect workers from discrimination and contracting out. The City has come to us with proposals to roll back protections on our civil rights at the workplace. On International Women’s Day, or any day in San Francisco, this is not acceptable. Come rally on March 7th to fight for a better San Francisco!
Start Time: 12:00
Date: 2019-03-07

Healthcare Rally & Hearing

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Title: Healthcare Rally & Hearing
Location: Milton Marks State Auditorium ~ 455 Golden Gate Ave, SF
Start Time: 15:00
Date: 2019-03-12

Defend Dynamex Lobby Day

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Title: Defend Dynamex Lobby Day
Location: California Labor Federation ~ 1127 11th St. #425 Sacramento
Link out: Click here
Start Time: 08:30
Date: 2019-02-26

Forum Featuring Mexican Member of Congress José Gerardo Fernández Noroña

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Title: Forum Featuring Mexican Member of Congress José Gerardo Fernández Noroña
Location: ILWU 34 ~ 4 Berry Street, SF
Link out: Click here
Start Time: 16:00
Date: 2019-03-02

Remembering Fred Pecker

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Title: Remembering Fred Pecker
Location: ILWU 10 ~ 400 Northpoint, SF
Link out: Click here
Start Time: 11:30
Date: 2019-02-23

Labor Archives Annual Program: LUCHA OBRERA: Latinos and Their Unions in San Francisco

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Title: Labor Archives Annual Program: LUCHA OBRERA: Latinos and Their Unions in San Francisco
Location: ILWU 34 ~ 4 Berry Street, SF
Link out: Click here
Description: LUCHA OBRERA: Latinos and Their Unions in San Francisco

Labor Archives Annual Program
Historian Eduardo Contreras will discuss the centrality of unions and labor organizing in Latino life from the 1930s to the 1950s. Drawing on material from his new book, “Latinos and the Liberal City: Politics and Protest in San Francisco”, Contreras will explain how unionization transformed Latinos into political actors and how the pursuit of rights, power, and recognition emanated — first and foremost — from their unions.

Music by Familia Peña-Govea | Organizing Update from UNITE HERE Local 2

Refreshments by Knight’s Catering at 6:30pm, program begins at 7:00pm

Where: ILWU Local 34 hall, 4 Berry Street, San Francisco (on the Embarcadero next to Giant’s Stadium, 2nd & King Streets)

Free and Open to Public | Wheelchair accessible

Start Time: 18:30
Date: 2019-02-22

Rally for Healthcare!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Title: Rally for Healthcare!
Location: Milton Marks State Auditorium ~ 455 Golden Gate Ave, SF
Link out: Click here
Healthcare costs are killing workers’ wages:

  • Workers have seen wages stay frozen, but insurance rates have doubled or tripled or more over the last ten years.
  • Prescription drug prices continue to rise.
  • Insurance companies and health care providers continue to make record profits while working people are struggling.

But in California we know that when we unite to fight the healthcare industry, we can win. In 2015, organized labor fought and won legislation, SB 546, which requires the insurance companies and HMOs like Kaiser to be more transparent about how they set their rates. Some of us even saw minimal healthcare cost increases last year. And in 2017, unions fought and won the most far-reaching prescription drug price transparency law in the country.

Join us for a rally and hearing to call out greedy insurance companies, monopoly hospital corporations, and drug companies. The fightback on healthcare begins now!

RALLY on Tuesday, March 12th at 3 PM
Milton Marks State Auditorium ~ 455 Golden Gate Ave in SF

Start Time: 15:00
Date: 2019-03-12
End Time: 18:00

Rallies in Support of SEIU 2015 Workers

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

Title: Rallies in Support of SEIU 2015 Workers
Location: Multiple
Description: The Bosses are at it again. Bad faith bargaining and unfair labor practices are occurring at two skilled healthcare facilities in San Francisco and SEIU 2015 members are fighting back. Please join a sanctioned picket line tomorrow at Noon at either of these locations:
2043 19th Avenue
2707 Pine Street
Thank you for your solidarity and support!
Start Time: 12:00
Date: 2019-02-06

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