OUSD Management Continues to Ignore Staff’s COVID Safety Demands
October 25, 2021: Nearly three weeks ago, on October 6, the SEIU 1021 Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) bargaining team, alongside Oakland Education Association (OEA), delivered extremely important proposals in our contract negotiations with OUSD management: a COVID-19 safety protocol designed to ensure that management started protecting the health and safety of District students, District employees, and the larger OUSD community.
“Some of what we’re advocating for include stricter testing
protocols to make sure that isolated cases don’t become
outbreaks; extending the supplemental sick leave provided by
Senate Bill 95 that expired at the end of September, so that no
one has to choose between keeping our students and colleagues
safe and paying their bills; and protocols and mechanisms to
ensure that, as we head into colder months, we have policies and
protocols in place to keep our kids safe, warm, and comfortable
during nutrition breaks. We are glad very glad to be on the same
page as the educators of OEA in these priorities–our voices are
stronger together,” said Donneva Reid,
principal account clerk and vice president of SEIU Local
OUSD employees have demanded that District management provide the following:
- Extended supplemental sick leave to replace the leave that expired under SB 95 at the end of September through the end of the pandemic to allow workers to quarantine, isolate, or care for loved ones battling COVID-19 without losing pay;
- Mandatory weekly rapid PCR testing for students and staff at all schools and other worksites to minimize our community’s exposure to COVID-19;
- Effective upholding of the District’s student mask mandates to protect student and staff health and safety; and
- Large-scale conversion of outdoor spaces at schools to allow for safe nutrition breaks, even during inclement weather days.
OUSD management’s response?
Management has refused to take appropriate steps to protect students, staff, educators, and our community, rejecting our ideas while failing to propose any solutions of their own. Moreover, management has outright refused to bargain on some of these critical issues impacting our health and safety.
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For example, management’s chief negotiator said at the table on Oct. 20 that management would not negotiate over the District’s disastrous approach to upholding student masking rules—full stop.
Not only does management’s refusal to engage on these issues amount to bad-faith bargaining, it endangers worker and student health and safety: These proposals are of the most critical importance right now. School employees need to be able to stay home when they are experiencing possible symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed without risking their ability to pay their bills. They need adequate weekly testing across the board to protect our entire school community. And as cooler temperatures and rain arrive in the Bay Area, there is no more time to waste in making sure that students can safely and comfortably eat outdoors or in modified, well-ventilated indoor spaces with monitoring for adherence to the mask policies.
All of the policies OUSD staff have proposed are absolutely crucial for preventing new outbreaks and protecting our students, staff, educators, and the larger community. They are also commonplace at other school districts with proactive and accountable management teams.
In the two weeks since they passed their COVID-19 safety proposal, more than 16,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, including several in Alameda County. Yet OUSD management is acting as if the pandemic were over, failing to take any action in those two weeks before rejecting the core of our proposal yesterday at the table. They continued to display their lack of urgency in showing up late to bargaining yesterday unprepared to provide us with answers to even the most straightforward questions.
Management’s blatant disregard for the safety and lives of their students, staff, and educators must not go unchecked. They have wasted far too much time already. We cannot afford to lose a single day more.
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