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Oakland Teachers Hold 'Art Build' To Make Statements Ahead Of Potential Strike

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- On Sunday, the Oakland Education Association called for a strike authorization vote from its members. This is the latest step in a showdown between the Oakland School District and its workers, and it looks more and more like the district is headed for a strike.

The announcement came at noon from Oakland Education Association President Keith Brown.

"A democratic strike vote by paper ballot at school sites in the Oakland Unified School District will send a message that Oakland educators are serious about ending the teacher retention crisis," he said.

The union says it wants more student resources, smaller class sizes and what they call a "living wage" for its workers. It is using the power of art to reinforce the message. Union and community members met in Oakland on Sunday for an "art build" to create the protest materials for a potential strike.

"It's gorgeous because it brings people together but also it shows the world what's going on in a way that is…instant," said Misao Brow, a retired teacher and volunteer

In one room, screen printers turned out handmade fabric posters. Downstairs, volunteers painted huge "parachute" signs designed to make a bold statement. It's no accident the images are reminiscent of materials from the 1960's Vietnam War protests.

"When you're in that kind of struggle you need to keep your spirits up and by making things actually together…the process is community building, it's strengthening," said Julie Searle, teacher and volunteer in Berkeley.

Jennifer Fuller teaches art at United For Success Academy in Oakland. She says activists have always used colorful imagery--not only to persuade outsiders, but to inspire those already in the fight.

"It creates a kind of motivation that it might not if we were just making signs individually," said Fuller.

Signs made, not on a printing press but by many hands, are intended to send a message of unity if a fight should occur. Following Sunday's announcement, there will now be a four-day vote among the members beginning on Jan. 29 to determine if the union has the authority to strike.

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