Chapter 8 - The Victory
On March 19 the district and the Oakland Education Association finally came to what seemed like a fair agreement. The contract proposed was distributed to the teachers and they would vote on it that night. Teachers gathered at the union office and had their first chance to read the thick yellow packet of proposals. Teachers read through the agreement anxiously; perhaps a little too excited to even think straight.
A glance at the newly proposed contract told teachers many things. The contract addressed class sizes which were to be reduced under a program called the "Student Improvement Program." This program called for class sizes to be lowered by about three to five students each. Substitute teachers were also victorious. Substitutes were to be granted close to an eight dollar. per day raise plus a raise for long term assignments. Teachers happily read over the contract and found that full time teachers were being guaranteed bonus pay plus a 3.14% pay increase effective July 1, 1996. The dental plan was set at $1,500. Retirement plans, which were an important concern early in the strike, were also included in the proposals. It all seemed fair.
The night of March 19 teachers gathered to vote on the contract. It was passed by a landslide victory of 1,043 votes to 330. The Oakland teachers' strike was over and the teachers had won. A great victory was achieved on behalf of the teachers and many were pleased. The 24 school-day strike was the longest teachers' strike in the history of Oakland and the teachers held out and were victorious. According to Ben Visnick, the OEA president, "the union largely succeeded in securing its three major demands to raise teacher salaries, lower class size, and reduce the central administrative budget." Skyline High School assistant principal Gilbert Cho also expressed his joy, "students and teachers are very excited to be back. I feel good about it."
Footnotes 57 - 59
57. Information taken from the official contract between the Oakland Education Association and the Oakland Unified School District, established March 19-20, 1996.
58. Visnick, Ben, as quoted by Mike Fitelson, "Students are back in class for the first time in a month," Montclarion, March 22, 1996.
59 Ibid., Gilbert Cho, as quoted.