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

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

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
  • Michael Rubin, delegate to Alameda Labor Council, SEIU Local 1000
  • Patricia Brown , President, CFT Local 4681, San Mateo Adult School
  • Bruce Neuburger, Vice President, CFT Local 4681, San Mateo Adult School
  • Lisa Dolehide, Secretary, CFT Local 4681, San Mateo Adult School
  • Shirley McMahon, Treasurer, CFT Local 4681,  San Mateo Adult School
  • Alisa Messer, AFT 2121
  • Ann Worth, delegate to Alameda Labor Council from Local 510 Sign Display and Allied Crafts

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

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