Chapter 5 - Teacher Tactics
Backlashed by racism, threats, scabs, lies and other district-made tactics, the Oakland teachers' strike continued with surprising support. The Classrooms First concept was still widely cherished and the strike had gained significant support from community, students and parents despite regressive district attempts to undermine the strike. This support came from the unbending will of the teachers to win this strike. The teachers used the greatest tactic of all, one which the district could not comprehend: solidarity with fellow workers. "We have no choice but to support this or everybody's efforts to this point will be for nothing," explained one striking teacher, "I'll eat beans for the rest of the year if l have to. "
With such high hopes and unity teachers looked to other ways to combat the district's use of scabs and deal with the education of students. "Many teachers and students have chosen not to let the district's disdain for the students and contempt for the teachers interfere with learning," reports one striking substitute, "The teachers came up with a much more positive way to provide education during the strike. Alternative strike schools have been set up, meeting a few hours a day at neutral sites." The Alternative Learning Center was formed and strike schools were established by teachers so that students could go to strike schools and learn from their teachers instead of attending their regular schools and crossing the picket lines. Teachers usually worked for free at the strike schools.
Strike schools took place in parks, churches and homes. It proved to be a good alternative for parents who wanted to support the strike. Parents who worked all day, and couldn't leave their kids at home, could drop them off at strike schools and rest assured that their regular teachers would be there to care for them and teach them.
The fact that teachers set up strike schools solely for the purpose of educating students showed to the community that it was the striking teachers who truly cared about the well being of the students. Suddenly, the district's excuse that the strike was bad for students was totally undermined by strike schools. Strike schools enabled students and parents to fight for smaller class sizes while maintaining an education as well.
Teachers also began to feel a real sense of' selfempowerment. Strike schools helped teachers realize that they can do things on their own, without authority. The strike, and the solidarity of the strike, also proved to teachers that work place abuse and inequality don't have to be passively accepted. "We are becoming more and more radicalized," explained Susan DeNault, a striking high school history teacher, "This strike has been empowering. When I return to school, I won't take the abuse that I put up with before." Another striker, a coach at Oakland Technical High School, Jim Brown, realized the importance of the struggle, "It's worth fighting for," he explains, "We are history makers. History will [show] we are right."
Teacher tactics proved themselves far more productive than oppositional district attempts. Teachers began to realize the importance of unity and self sufficiency. Instead of fabricated information, instead of attempting to bring up fictitious issues of racism, instead of threatening the district, teachers provided a positive alternative to crossing the picket lines. This was a strong tactic of the teachers and resulted from a strong sense of solidarity. Teachers were becoming more self-confident and learning to create positive alternatives to employer demands. The strike continued and support grew with each day.
Footnotes 36 - 39
36. Bazeley, Michael, -talks fail - teachers strike," Oakland Tribune, February 15, 1996.
37. Cadambi, Malini, "Oakland Teachers Strike To Win," Z Magazine, April, 1996, p.20.
38. DeNault, Susan, as stated in an unpublished interview by Malini Cadambi, March, 1996.
39. Brown, Jim, as stated in an unpublished interview by Malini Cadambi, March, 1996.