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#RedforEd-Supporting Marxist Mag: Why Oakland Teachers Strike Ended in Socialist Victory

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 21: Oakland Unified School District students, teachers and parent carry signs as they march to the Oakland Unified School District headquarters on February 21, 2019 in Oakland, California. Nearly 3,000 teachers in Oakland have gone on strike and are demanding a 12 percent retroactive raise. (Photo …
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
MICHAEL PATRICK LEAHY

The Marxist magazine in which Noah Karvelis — the 24-year-old teacher and founder of the #RedforEd movement behind the recent spate of teachers strikes — declared that community organizing “must be embraced” by teachers unions, is now claiming the end of the recent teachers strike in Oakland, California, proves that “educators … have recognized their class enemies.”

“Oakland teachers ended their seven-day strike Sunday and will return to schools Monday after approving a new contract that won them salary increases and concessions on class sizes and staff workloads,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“Though it falls short of many members’ raised expectations, the new contract is a significant step forward: it grants educators an 11 percent pay raise and also includes gains on issues like class size and support-staff ratios,” wrote Eric Blanc, author of the upcoming book Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics, on Monday at the Marxist Jacobin Magazine:

But it would be a mistake to judge the strike’s outcome only on the basis of the final contract provisions. The big wins lie elsewhere.

Oakland’s walkout has energized and transformed tens of thousands of teachers, students, and community members to fight for more. Educators have felt their own power — and they have recognized their class enemies. Though the war to save Oakland schools is far from over, after this strike, the city will never be the same. . .

Tim Marshall — a middle school science teacher, strike cluster leader, and member of the Democratic Socialists of America — noted, “Just a few weeks ago at my school site, only a few people were interested in talking about how to stop privatization, closures, and charters. But now that’s the only thing anybody wants to discuss.” This transformation was not limited to educators: students of all ages walked the picket lines, spoke at rallies, and drew political signs — many reflecting a remarkable degree of class consciousness — in support of both themselves and their teachers. . .

At the beginning of the strike, Marshall, a teacher in the Oakland Unified School District for 22 years and a Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) activist, explained to Meagan Day — a DSA member and a Jacobin Magazine staff writer — why the young socialists who have recently begun teaching and joined the Oakland Education Association (OEA) were so critical to the launch of the strike:

I think the additional wild card has been these young people. The young people of our union are much more fearless resisters against their principals. They’re also much more vulnerable, because the rents are rising and the reality of being a twenty-five-year-old teacher is not the same as when I did it. They never paid us well in Oakland, but rent in Oakland used to be cheap.

And the support of younger socialists has been crucial. It’s not like how it used to be, with radicals isolated in their unions, the residual effects of the Cold War and red-baiting forcing them to disguise their politics. DSA is much more out front.

The role that East Bay DSA has played has been really welcome in the union. There are DSA members who are teachers on the organizing committee, and there were DSA members out on picket lines all over town this morning. In the lead-up to the strike DSA has cosponsored events with the union and taken on a huge logistical burden to make them happen. Bread for Ed, a massive fundraiser to feed kids during the strike, would not have happened without DSA. Much of the solidarity school organizing would not have happened without DSA.

As the Chronicle reported, the raise came from a public school district that is financially insolvent:

Oakland Unified has been hemorrhaging money for years. It faces a $30 million budget shortfall next year and a $60 million deficit the year after that.

The district is not alone in poor money management. In June, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Education Trailer Bill, which will provide financial relief to districts across the state. Funding from the bill will cover up to 75 percent of the Oakland’s shortfall next year, up to 50 percent the next year, and up to 25 percent in the third year.

The energy from the young socialist teachers apparently inspired a number of their students to join the picket lines.

“[R]oughly 25 students … joined teachers on the picket line in front of Oakland Tech Friday morning, on the second day of a districtwide teacher strike,” KQED reported.

Blanc concluded in his Jacobin Magazine article that the success of the Oakland teachers strike was just the beginning.

“[T]he next phase of the struggle also has to be part of a massive statewide movement — notably, to pass a statewide charter moratorium and to approve a 2020 ballot initiative to end Prop 13’s infamous commercial tax loopholes,” he wrote.

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