As Bay Area tech workers and activists, we see clearly that the struggles faced by tech workers are fundamentally connected with those faced by the teachers who are on strike in Oakland.
When one section of the working class fights and wins, it raises the hopes and expectations for all working people. Now that the strike wave that swept through Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado and Arizona is coming to Silicon Valley’s own backyard, it’s time for us to show up, support the striking teachers and learn from their struggle.
Many of the social and economic forces that are impacting teachers also directly impact tech workers.
The already sky-high cost of housing means that even relatively well-paid tech workers (who are not the majority of tech workers) spend a significant portion of each paycheck on renting a place to live. The striking teachers point out that Oakland rents have increased 32 percent since 2014, and wages have not risen at the same pace.
There are other ways the teachers’ struggle impacts workers in tech. Educators are having a harder time doing their jobs, which means that raising a family in the Bay Area becomes a choice between scrambling for access to better schools or sending the kids to private or charter schools (schools that are run privately but receive state funding).
A lack of quality education also maintains state-sanctioned inequality and segregation. So a teachers’ strike in Oakland is also a racial justice issue, since Oakland is one of the most racially diverse cities in the country. More than 85 percent of students are non-white, and 30 percent are English language learners.
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The demands of the Oakland Education Association (OEA), the union representing 3,000 educators, include spending more money on students, nurses and counselors; lower class sizes; and a living wage that will keep Oakland teachers in Oakland classrooms.