Oakland, CA — When I was a junior in high school in 2019, I remember hearing a rumor that the staff and teachers of the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) were going on strike. Within two weeks, staff and teachers were picketing outside of our campus — advocating for their right to be paid a living wage and more adequate resources for students.
It’s been four years since then. I’m a junior in college now. And the Oakland Education Association (OEA) — the labor union composed of approximately 3,000 OUSD teachers and staff — are on another strike regarding the very same issues as before. They’re fighting for not only improved salaries and benefits for staff, but also “common good” goals, which are proposals that could benefit the community as a whole. Some examples of the proposals include housing for unhoused students and investing in schools with 40% or more Black students.
However, the OEA is not the only union of educational instructors and staff to go on strike within the last year. A few months ago, approximately 36,000 graduate student workers in the University of California system decided to go on strike to advocate for livable wages. The Los Angeles Unified School District teachers also took to the picket lines to fight for wages that reflect the extent of their work. Educational staff in Columbus and Philadelphia also took to the streets to assert their demands for better resources and adequate wages.
As costs of living in the United States continue to rise, so are the expectations for base salaries that are necessary for survival. Unfortunately, the average salary or wage for an instructor or staff member for a school district does not seem to reflect the cost of living. Although strikes have occurred throughout the history of the American educational system, the recent surge of strikes coincide with the growing disparity between salary and cost of living. So what can you do to support these workers in their fight?
How Can I Help?
Even if you are not a student or staff member of a school district, you can still show support and contribute to the progression of the strikes. Here are three ways that anyone can get involved and assist those who are on the picket lines.
If Possible, Join the Picket Lines!
Being in-person to support staff during such stressful and tense events can provide comfort and establish a more solid sense of community. While showing support online can be helpful, physical presence can be a large contributor to a sense of communal support. Additionally, in joining the picket lines, people can network and hear about any other plans to protest as the strikes persist.
Keep up With the Social Media and Current News of the Unions!
In recent years, an online presence has become imperative for developing social traction. Most teacher and staff unions have social media accounts. And following the official unions’ pages can ensure that you are getting accurate information. Additionally, spreading and reposting information that you receive from such social media platforms can be an effective way to educate others who may not have initially had access to such information!
Volunteer at Local Service Clubs and Organizations
During education strikes, many students cannot stay at home. As such, institutions and organizations such as libraries and Boys and Girls clubs hold space for them to spend their days. If you have the time and ability to do so, consider volunteering for a local organization or institution that is in need of caregivers, in order to assist the many children that may be in need of support.