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Open Letter: Labor Leaders Support the Lakeview Sit-In and People’s School

Posted on June 23, 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are writing to declare our support for the parents, teachers, and community member sit-in and People’s School for Public Education at Lakeview Elementary in Oakland, and to urge full labor support and outreach for this fight to keep all Oakland neighborhood schools open, public, and fully funded, and to oppose the anti-union policies of the Oakland school district administration.

At the end of this school year, the Oakland Unified School District closed 5 public elementary schools, displacing over 1,000 students. The school district plans to convert some of these school buildings into district administration offices, and to turn the others over to privately controlled (and non-union) charter schools. This continues a downward spiral of cuts, downsizing, privatization, and union-busting that has decimated Oakland public education, and has been particularly devastating to schools and students in the black and brown communities.

In protest of the school closures and the privatization of OUSD, on June 15 parents, teachers, students and community members launched a sit-in at one of the closed schools, Lakeview Elementary, and re-opened the school’s doors for the “People’s School for Public Education”, a free social justice summer program for children in pre-K through 6th grade.

Specifically, here are their demands: • Don’t close the 5 schools. Keep all neighborhood schools open. • Stop union busting: defend the OEA and all school worker unions • Repudiate the state debt • Fully fund quality public education for all • Demand OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith reopen all closed schools or resign

What is the background to this struggle?

A decade ago, the Oakland Unified School District had 54,000 students in public schools. Now it has only 36,000. Ten years ago, Oakland had 2,000 students in charter schools. Today there are over 8,000. Schools have been shut down. School libraries have been closed, and librarians have been laid off. Electives have been eliminated, vocational programs closed down, support staff positions have been consolidated. Much of this was done under the state takeover of Oakland schools, when the district’s debt to the state was tripled (from $37 million in 2003 to $110 million in 2010) because the state administrators spent proportionately double the California school district average on outsourcing to consultants and vendors, and double the school district average on administration.

Why should labor support this struggle?

The school closures, privatization, and overall downsizing of OUSD are part and parcel of the austerity, downsizing, and privatization attack on public sector unions and on essential public services. The game plan is clear: to do to the public sector unions what was done in the private sector in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, barely one in 20 private sector workers are unionized. That’s what’s in store for public sector unions – unless we stop playing the game the same way and by their rules.

OUSD imposed terms on OEA two years ago, and now it’s flagrantly flouting the terms of its own imposition: two months ago, the school district unilaterally declared that all teachers at Castlemont, Fremont, and McClymonds High Schools would have to reapply for their jobs this year (and every year thereafter), and would have to work a month longer than teachers in all other schools. This union busting is just another aspect of the privatization of OUSD, and thus is closely linked to the school closures.

So why support the parents, teachers, and community at Lakeview? • School closures mean fewer members for all schoolworker unions, weakening them • Weaker unions are easier targets for union-busting attacks on wages, health care, pensions, seniority and due process • Smaller and weaker schoolworker unions weaken all of labor, making other unions more vulnerable and subject to downsizing • Smaller and weaker public sector unions go hand in hand with harsh austerity cuts to all essential services – not just schools. • And finally, we ask: if public education is trashed, where and how will we educate our children?

Although police have entered the Lakeview site several times to post “Stay Away” notices in a clear attempt to intimidate parents from enrolling their children, the People’s School is growing: from seven students on Monday to 23 on Tuesday, with larger enrollments anticipated as excitement about the program spreads. The People’s School can succeed. Its demands can be won – if labor commits itself to join and build a united labor-community fight.

“An injury to one is an injury to all”. Let’s seize this opportunity to fight alongside parents, students, and community. We will mobilize our members to support this struggle.

We call on East Bay union locals – especially those in the greater Oakland area – to urge their members to: • Endorse the Lakeview Sit-in and “The People’s School for Public Education”. • Turn out for and spread the word about the daily 5pm rallies in front of Lakeview Elementary (746 Grand Avenue Oakland, across from the Grand Lake Theater). • Assemble at Oscar Grant Plaza (14th and Broadway) at noon on Saturday (June 23) and march to Lakeview Elementary. • Contact Alameda Labor Council secretary Josie Camacho and urge her to expedite declaring Lakeview Elementary to be a sanctioned picket site.

In Solidarity,

Betty Olson-Jones, president, Oakland Education Association John Green, president, Castro Valley Education Association Tanya Smith, president, University Professional and Technical Workers Local 1 (UPTE – CWA) Jelger Kalmijn, U. of California systemwide president, UPTE – CWA 9119 Ana Turestsky, president, AFT Local 771 Ruben Rodriguez, president, AFSCME Local 444 Keith Brown, executive Board, Oakland Education Association Amanda Armstrong, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Sara Smith, executive board, UAW Local 2865

Blanca Misse, executive board, UAW Local 2865

Brenda Medina-Hernandez, executive board, UAW Local 2865 Nick Kardahji, executive board, UAW Local 2865 Tenaya Lafore, northern California organizer, UAW Local 2865 Lisa Eberle, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Shannon Ikebe, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Katy Fox-Hodess, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Andrew Higgins, head steward UC Davis, UAW Local 2865 Ethan Lavine, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Marcel Rosaldo, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Jessica Smith, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Nikolai Smith, head steward UC San Diego, UAW Local 2865 John Stehlin, head steward UC Berkeley, UAW Local 2865 Veronique Fortin, head steward UC Irvine, UAW Local 2865 Duane Wright, unit chair UC Davis, UAW Local 2865 Peter Brown, executive board, Peralta Federation of Teachers John Gallagher, American Attendance Area Rep, Fremont Teachers Association Jack Gerson, (retired), former executive board and bargaining team, OEA Bob Mandel, (retired), former executive board and bargaining team, OEA Bill Balderston, (retired), former OEA executive board and bargaining team, OEA Craig Gordon, former OEA executive board Jack Heyman, (retired), labor activist, ILWU Local 10 Richard Mellor (retired), former executive board, AFSCME Local 444 John Reimann, former recording secretary, Carpenters Local 713 Stan Woods, former executive board, ILWU Local 6 Cheryl Zuur (retired), former president, AFSCME Local 444 New Direction caucus, CUE-Teamsters Local 2010 Executive Board, University Professional and Technical Employees Local 1 Executive Board, ATU Local 1555

Magdalena De Guzman, executive board, UESF

Mike Jones, executive board, San Lorenzo Education Association

Michael-David Sasson, former president, CUE-IBT Local 2010

Jerry L. Bailey, (retired), former executive board and negotiating team, Stockton Teachers Association

Denis Mosgofian (retired lithographer/platemaker), GCC-IBT

Carl Finamore, delegate, SF Labor Council

Alan Benjamin, executive board, SF Labor Council

Fred Hirsch, executive board, Plumbers & Fitters Local 393

Alita Blanc, UESF/EDU

Andy Libson, UESF/EDU

Rodney Brown, executive board, OEA

Dave Welsh, delegate, SF Labor Council

(all signatories are listed as individuals, with positions added for identification purposes only)


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About The Author

Dr. Danny Weil is a public interest attorney who has practiced for more than twenty years and has been published in a case of first impression in California. He is no longer active as a lawyer but has written seven books on education, has taught second grade in South Central LA, PS 122, taught K-1 migrant children in Santa Maria, California and Guadalupe, California, taught in the California Youth Authority to first and second degree murderers and taught for seventeen years at Allan Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, CA. in the philosophy department. Dr. Weil holds a BA in Political Economics and Philosophy, a multi-subject bilingual credential in education (he is fluent in Spanish) and a PhD in Critical Thinking. Dr. Weil was one of 226 legal residents in Nicaragua, where he worked for the Ministry of Culture under the Sandanistas in1985. Dr. Weil is an expert in curriculum design for critical thinking at all levels of education, from K-adult. He is also an internationally recognized speaker on critical thinking and pedagogy, having written many books on the subject. Danny Weil is a writer for Project Censored and Daily Censored. He received the Project Censored "Most Censored" News Stories of 2009-10 award for his article: "Neoliberalism, Charter Schools and the Chicago Model / Obama and Duncan's Education Policy: Like Bush's, Only Worse," published by Counterpunch, August 24, 2009. Dr. Weil has published more than seven books on education in the past 20 years. You can also read much more about all aspects of the privatization of the educational means of production and the for-profit, predatory colleges in his writings found at Truthout.com, Counterpunch.com, Dailycensored.com, dissidentvoice.com and Project Censored.com where he has covered the issue of the privatization of education for years. He can be reached at [email protected] His new book, an encyclopedia on charter schools, entitled: "Charter School Movement: History, Politics, Policies, Economics and Effectiveness," 641 pages, was published in August of 2009 by Grey House Publishing, New York, and provides a scathing look at the privatization of education through charter schools. He is currently a member of the Truthout Public Intellectual Project. "The project is designed to provide a platform for the general public to think carefully about a range of social problems that affect their lives. It will also allow a generation of scholars to reflect on their own intellectual practices, discourses and understanding of what it might mean to embrace their role as public intellectuals" (http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=4349:the-public-intellectual-project).

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