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Oakland Teachers Union Calls for Feb. 21 Strike Over Pay, Class Sizes

OAKLAND (CBS SF/BCN/AP) -- The Oakland teachers' union on Saturday called on its 3,000 members to strike after negotiating with the Oakland Unified School District for more than a year and a half.

At a press conference at the union's headquarters near Lake Merritt, Oakland Education Association president Keith Brown said that Oakland Unified School District was "failing its students" and said that bargaining with the district "has not worked."

Brown said teachers will strike unless the district dramatically changes its spending approach.

"This strike will make education so much better for Oakland students," Brown said.

Oakland Teachers' Union President Keith Brown at Saturday Press Conference
Oakland teachers' union president Keith Brown called for a Feb. 21 strike at a press conference on Saturday. (CBS)

Oakland Unified says the schools will stay open during the work stoppage. They will have administrators and substitute teachers at the schools, but admit this will be a big disruption for students and their families.

Students at Oakland High were hearing about the strike and making plans. One plans to stay home and the other said he will talk to his family before making a decision. Both support their teachers.

"I think it's a good thing to do," said 8th grader Eric Castellanos. "They need to get paid more."

The Oakland Education Association has been demanding smaller class sizes, more counselors and full-time nurses, and a 12 percent raise over three years. The district has offered 5 percent and says it is squeezed by rising costs.

The union announced Feb. 4 that 95 percent of members who took part in a strike authorization vote cast ballots in favor of allowing union leaders to call a strike.

Brown called on teachers to strike Thursday, Feb. 21. "We will strike for the future of education in Oakland," Brown said.

The action comes the day after the two sides received compromise recommendations in a fact-finding report.

Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell had said Friday she was pleased with the recommendations report and hoped it would coax the union back to negotiations.

The school district still hopes to avoid a strike, officials said.

They have asked the teachers union to return to the bargaining table.

"Is it going to be disruptive in the district? There's no question," said OUSD spokesman John Sasaki. "It's not going to be business as usual if there's a strike."

The negotiations are playing out against a state and national background of teacher strikes, one of which, in Los Angeles, recently settled after a six-day walkout. And a strike in this East Bay city of 400,000 would follow one by Denver teachers, who ended a three-day walkout after their union reached a tentative deal Thursday.

The city plans to open up 15 recreation centers where the students can go if they don't want to cross the picket line.

In a statement released Friday, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged teachers and the district to come to an agreement.

© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Bay City News and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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