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Teachers’ Union Says School District Not Honoring Labor Agreement Reached in Strike

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The Oakland teachers’ union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA) , is calling on Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Supt. Kyla Johnson-Trammell “to immediately reverse decisions” that violate terms of the school district’s contract with teachers,  including provisions that were ratified as part of the settlement of the seven-day teachers’ strike earlier this year.

“Rank and file members are concerned that they’re not respecting our contract,” said Brian Crowell, teacher and secretary of the OEA Grievance Committee.

“We’re not talking about a grievance here or there,” he said. “We’re talking about broad violations of the contract, our fundamental collective bargaining agreement.”

Crowell said that union members are now facing “retaliation and bullying by administrators,” which he believes reflects the district’s disrespect for educators.

Although the strike is over, Crowell said that the union is continuing to organize, fighting for its members and in the interests of the community. “Our loyalty is to the students and the community. That is our primary concern,” said Crowell, adding that another major union concern is school closures.

 

Brian Crowell. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“That was a big issue during the strike, and has not been resolved. There is a disputed question whether that is a (legitimate) area of bargaining, but it is something that has a huge  impact on working conditions.”

The school board has voted to close or merge several schools in 2019 and is expected to close more school sites from a list of 24 over next several years.

“School closures disproportionately harm Black and Brown students,” said the OEA in a petition it is circulating to union members. “OUSD has shown no evidence that (closures) improve learning or save money…Reinvest in our public schools, (don’t) close them,” the petition said.

The document also claims that the district withheld “$9 million from the employee healthcare fund, despite a signed settlement agreement reached in September 2018.”

The petition warned that without these payments, the fund will become “insolvent within a year” and force employees to  begin to make “dramatic out-of-pocket” payments for their individual health plans.

For many years, healthcare coverage has been provided 100 percent as part of the union contract, but according to Crowell  the agreement signed by the union and the district last year said that effective July 1, the district would pay $2.25 million annually until the final payment is made by June 30, 2024.

“July 1 came, and the district didn’t do it,” he said, pointing out that this issue not only effects teachers but also other school employee unions, including United Administrators of Oakland Schools (UAOS) , SEIU 1021, AFSCME Local 257, as well as teamsters, building trades and others.

The OEA petition also focuses on the district’s failure to hire staff to support student learning – including newcomer teachers, speech pathologists and school psychologists – which was part of the agreement that ended the teachers’ strike in February.

In addition the petition claims that OUSD “refused to honor our personal leave contact language.” Under the contract, teachers are entitled to five days a year of personal leave, which automatically converts to sick leave if unused. When an employee retires, accumulated sick leaves can be added to total length of service to increase pension benefits.

The district is failing to convert unused personal leave to sick leave, Crowell said.

In response to questions from the Oakland Post, district spokesperson John Sasaki said,  “First and foremost, no fund is going insolvent (or even could go insolvent). This isn’t possible as the District pays its share of healthcare costs from the General Fund. Pursuant to existing agreements, we are working with all of our union partners to resolve outstanding issues related to potential healthcare set-asides by the District. We are committed to honoring our labor agreements, and addressing any concerns with interpretation, audit findings or hiring by working with OEA.”

Speaking to the school board Wednesday evening about the teachers’ union concerns, OEA President Keith Brown said,  “The district is not respecting the agreement you made to hire more psychologists. You’re  not respecting the agreement you made  with us to hire more speech therapists (and) more newcomer staff. You are not respecting the agreement you made with us regarding our health care.

“I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”

Activism

40 MLK Freedom Center Students Study Myth of 1st Thanksgiving, Role of Gratitude in Civil Rights and Social Change

Yolo County’s Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation members partnered with the Oakland-based Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center for its annual ‘Days of Gratitude’ this Thanksgiving weekend in Guinda, CA. From November 26-28, students from the San Francisco Bay Area, Yolo County, Sacramento and Kent and Tacoma, Washington, spent time with Yocha Dehe Language and History Associate, Dillon McKay and Cultural Resources Manager Laverne Bill to learn about the importance of Native Sovereignty and the role of cultural values in American democracy.

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Dillon McKay (in tan shirt wearing blue mask), Laverne Bill (in Blue shirt with abalone shell necklace), Martin Luther King Jr, Freedom Center Executive Director Dr. Roy D. Wilson (in black jacket and blue mask) with Freedom Center students.
Dillon McKay (in tan shirt wearing blue mask), Laverne Bill (in Blue shirt with abalone shell necklace), Martin Luther King Jr, Freedom Center Executive Director Dr. Roy D. Wilson (in black jacket and blue mask) with Freedom Center students.

3-Day Intensive with members of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation called Days of Gratitude

By Scott Horton, communications manager for the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center

While many Americans took a long weekend after enjoying a day and a meal with family and friends, 40 high school students got together to dig deep into understanding the myth of the Thanksgiving story and learn the truth about Native American history and culture from members of Yolo County’s Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

Yocha Dehe members partnered with the Oakland-based Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center for its annual ‘Days of Gratitude’ this Thanksgiving weekend in Guinda, CA. From November 26-28, students from the San Francisco Bay Area, Yolo County, Sacramento and Kent and Tacoma, Washington, spent time with Yocha Dehe Language and History Associate, Dillon McKay and Cultural Resources Manager Laverne Bill to learn about the importance of Native Sovereignty and the role of cultural values in American democracy.

McKay and Bill spoke to the group about many aspects of Yocha Dehe culture, including preservation of its language and oral history, governance, dance, food and agriculture, cultural resources/archaeological sites and the roles of tribal members in community.

Dillon emphasized that, “Our cultures may be diverse, but we share values. We all have one thing in common: we all want to make this a better place.”

Bill added, “We’re no longer living in a world where we are isolated from each other based on our color or our culture—we’re are evolving from that–and people need to understand each other. Your family and your community raised you to be who you are and to express yourself through your culture and heritage.”

The Freedom Center’s dynamic ‘Days of Gratitude’ course accomplishes three significant goals. First, students, staff and community members study the history of “Thanksgiving,” deconstructing false narratives. Secondly, the group studies Native Sovereignty and self-government. Thirdly, participants dig deep into the psychological, political, economic and cultural value of gratitude and particularly its fundamental role in the Civil Rights Movement and in making positive social change.

“We are honored, humbled and deeply grateful to the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and to Dillon McKay and Laverne Bill,” said Dr. Roy Wilson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center. “They generously shared their cultures, histories, traditions and explained the concept of native sovereignty and self-governance. We have much to learn as a democracy from their generational examples of sovereignty, community and civic engagement.”

In addition to spending November 26 with McKay and Bill, the students and staff studied the role of gratitude as a fundamental principle of self-transformation, and civic engagement as part of traditions of nonviolent social change and civil rights.

For more information about the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, visit www.mlkfreedomcenter.org.

Scott Horton is the communications manager for the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center.

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Activism

With Union Contract OK’d, Moe’s Books Workers Get Improved Wages, Benefits 

Despite some mixed feelings from workers about the owner’s reactions to the union, both workers and ownership expressed optimism about what they think the Moe’s Books union can do for the future of the four-story store with over 200,000 mostly used books. “If customers see the positive impact of shopping at independently owned stores that do all they can to support their workers,” said Moe’s Books owner, Doris Moskowitz, “then this agreement will only make Moe’s Books’ future stronger.”

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Moe’s Books Union members Phoebe Wong (left), Owen Hill (center), and Bradley Skaught (right) pose inside the Berkeley bookstore on November 30. Photo by Zack Haber.
Moe’s Books Union members Phoebe Wong (left), Owen Hill (center), and Bradley Skaught (right) pose inside the Berkeley bookstore on November 30. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Workers at Moe’s Books in Berkeley agreed to their first union contract with store ownership on November 23. The agreement has given them a $20 minimum wage, dental insurance, more paid vacation days, a new procedure for filing grievances, and job security protections.

“I think this is a good, solid contract, and a good starting point for improving worker/owner relations,” said Owen Hill, who’s worked at Moe’s for about 35 years. “I wish we had this 10 years ago, but better late than never.”

Moe’s Books owner, Doris Moskowitz, told this publication she’s happy with the contract as well.

“I feel great about the agreement,” said Moskowitz. “Supporting our workers is part of Moe’s 60-year legacy, and we are proud to continue in that tradition.”

In early March about 95% of eligible Moe’s workers agreed to form a union by joining with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The move was part of a growth in bookstore unionization spurred by COVID-related issues.

Workers at Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle and Bookshop Santa Cruz each formed unions in 2020. This year, bookstore unionization has expanded as workers at Printed Matter in New York City formed a union in October, while workers at three different Half Price Books locations in Minnesota are awaiting election results in mid-December to certify their unions.

Immediately after its formation, Moskowitz recognized Moe’s Books Union, but she had mixed feelings about it. In early April, she told Berkeleyside she “deeply respected” the workers’ decision to unionize but that the move had also left her “very sad and confused.” Following initial negotiations related to COVID safety measures, the union and Moskowitz began its first contract negotiations. In total, both sides came to 35 agreements during 16 bargaining sessions over eight months.

“The bargaining process was long, tiresome, and sometimes tense,” said Hill. “But mostly people were respectful and tried to come to an understanding.”

According to Bruce Valde, an organizer with the IWW who works with Moe’s Books Union, the eight months it took to agree to the contract was comparatively quick. In his experience, it usually takes workers and ownership a year to a year-and-a-half to agree to a first union contract. Valde called Moskowitz’s choice to immediately recognize the union “wise” and lauded the workers’ collaboration in clearly stating their requests.

“I think the workers diligence in actually forming our positions was excellent,” said Valde.

Since the new contract has passed, all union members will soon be getting a 10% raise in their salaries, or a $20 an hour wage if the 10% bump doesn’t already exceed that wage.

They’ll also get a 3% wage increase during the second and third year of the contract.

Additionally, the contract has stipulations related to respecting employees’ gender and gender expression. Harassment violations now specifically include ownership or management commenting in an ostracizing manner on workers’ gender expression, including clothing choices or hairstyles, or not making a concerted effort to correctly use workers’ pronouns.

While the union members unanimously agreed to the contract and Moskowitz told this publication “I feel like it is a win-win” situation, workers claimed along the way that the owner wasn’t always respectful of the union. In late September, union members and supporters held an informational picket at the store to support their demand for the $20 minimum wage that was eventually granted, but also to share information with the public about how they thought the owners were practicing “union busting.”

Around this time, the union filed unfair labor practice claims to the National Labor Relations Board, one of which was related to their accusation that Moskowitz was offering promotions for the sole purpose of removing people from the union by placing them in management positions.

Barry Bloom, who works as a book shipper, claimed Moskowitz asked him if he’d agree to be the supervisor of the shipping department, a position that would prevent him from joining in the union. He was the only member of the shipping department at the time, and she didn’t offer him a raise.

“My immediate reaction was to wonder ‘who would I be supervising?’” Bloom said. “I pretty much instantly saw it as a union-busting tactic.”

Moskowitz denied the accusation of union busting, saying, at the time “We have not made any job offer or offers of promotions in order to encourage any employee to break from their support of the union.”

Soon after agreeing to the new contract, Moskowitz taped a statement to the front window of the store, expressing that she was proud of the contract and Moe’s openness to organized labor. The statement, which was posted to Moe’s instagram and Facebook accounts, also encouraged other businesses, specifically large bookstores, to allow workplace organizing.

“If a small, independent used-book seller can accomplish this while keeping the doors open during a global pandemic,” the statement reads, “there is no reason for more lucrative companies to claim labor organizing will shut down their business or harm their employees.”

Two days after the statement appeared on Moe’s books social media sites, Moe’s Books union’s Twitter account put up a post stating “There’s a little revisionist history going on over at the boss’s social media site.”

While largely happy with the contract, Moe’s Books worker Phoebe Wong told this publication she’s uncomfortable with the owners’ actions immediately following its ratification.

“I’m really pleased and so proud of the work everyone put into doing the contract,” said Phoebe Wong. “But it’s been a long fight. And, to be honest, it makes me a little queasy to see ownership touting pride because it seems pretty dishonest considering the pushback we got.”

Despite some mixed feelings from workers about the owner’s reactions to the union, both workers and ownership expressed optimism about what they think the Moe’s Books union can do for the future of the four-story store with over 200,000 mostly used books.

“If customers see the positive impact of shopping at independently owned stores that do all they can to support their workers,” said Moskowitz, “then this agreement will only make Moe’s Books’ future stronger.”

“Moe’s now offers good wages, good benefits, and job protection,” said Hill. “I think we have a lot to offer to workers, and that we will be able to employ top quality people. I don’t think I’m being too dramatic when I say that the union saved the business.”

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Bay Area

Ready to Travel? Get the REAL ID!  

The California DMV suggests changing your driver’s license or identification card to a REAL ID as federal laws will soon make it necessary to have either a passport, REAL ID, or other federally accepted forms of ID to board local flights and enter federal buildings.

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DMV Administrator Carrie Stanton. Photo courtesy of the author.
DMV Administrator Carrie Stanton. Photo courtesy of the author.

By Carrie Stanton, Regional Administrator (Region 2, Bay Area) of the California Department of Motor Vehicles

The holidays are here and families are excited to get together and celebrate for the first time in over a year. Amid the pandemic, we’ve missed far too many Sunday and holiday dinners that have been a tradition for many families for generations.

For our community, family dinner is about creating memories. For those families who will be traveling this holiday season, I encourage you to consider adding a REAL ID upgrade to your checklist when making your travel plans.

The California DMV suggests changing your driver’s license or identification card to a REAL ID as federal laws will soon make it necessary to have either a passport, REAL ID, or other federally accepted forms of ID to board local flights and enter federal buildings.

While getting a REAL ID isn’t required, it does make it easier to continue using your driver’s license to board a local flight or visit loved ones on military bases. To help make this change, the California DMV is offering free upgrades to people who renewed their license or ID card between March 2020 and July 2021 from now until Dec. 31, 2021.

Protecting the health, safety and security of our communities is what’s important and the REAL ID provides an extra layer of protection when traveling. Applying is easy and can be started safely online at CaliforniaREALID.org. Complete your application, upload the required forms, and plan your DMV office visit to finish. Don’t forget your documents and confirmation code– they will be needed for your visit.

Whether you are applying for a first-time California driver’s license or identification card or are up for renewal, a REAL ID may be the best option, especially if you plan to travel soon. Get back to creating those memories with your family. With shorter wait periods and an easy application process, now is the perfect time to start your REAL ID application so you’re ready to go when the time is right.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, many things in our lives are changing. In our community, many have started businesses, changed their lifestyles for the better and found new passions in life. Whatever is helping you get through these rough times is also playing a part in figuring out our new normal. Make the REAL ID part of that new normal.

Carrie Stanton is Regional Administrator (Region 2, Bay Area) of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

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