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Hundreds of Teachers Will Participate in Oakland General Strike on Wednesday

By Hannah ALbarazi (BCN)
Tuesday November 01, 2011 - 09:21:00 PM

Hundreds of teachers will be among thousands expected to participate in the general strike organized by Occupy Oakland on Wednesday.

Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said teachers are being allowed to join the general strike as long as they provide prior notice to their supervisors so that proper supervision can be arranged for students.

"We support many of the ideals contained in the Occupy Oakland movement," Flint said. "We believe public education, and other social services are underfunded. It's impacting kids and families in a negative way." 

Flint said 268 requests for leave were made by teachers in the district -- about 10 times the average number for a single day. Substitutes will be arranged to supervise students in the teachers' absence, Flint said. 

He said students are expected to report for school as usual and that absences will be considered unexcused. Students will have an opportunity to engage and learn about the social movement in the classroom and after school, Flint said. 

The entire staffs of at least two schools -- Bridges Academy and Maxwell High -- are planning to honor the one-day strike. 

Oakland city workers who want to participate in the strike have been asked to request approval from their supervisors and use leave or a floating furlough day, or take time off without pay -- sick leave won't apply. 

City of Oakland spokeswoman Karen Boyd said today that despite the general strike, "The city of Oakland is open for business, and we urge businesses to stay open." 

She said Oakland police "will facilitate peaceful marches downtown and elsewhere" and "we anticipate that the marches will be peaceful." 

Joseph Haraburda, president and CEO of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses near the encampment in Frank Ogawa Plaza are struggling and regular customers have stopped showing up at some.  

"We're disappointed that the city has allowed the Occupy Oakland residents to reside in downtown Oakland and in the City Hall plaza," he said. 

He said the chamber is encouraging merchants to keep their stores open on Wednesday.  

"We can't close because of a rowdy crowd," he said. 

Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, of the Oakland Police Officers Association said all available Oakland police officers will be on duty on Wednesday and will not participate in the strike. 

The last general strike in Oakland was in 1946.  

Richard Walker, professor of geography and chair of the California Studies Center at the University of California at Berkeley, said that general strikes are very rare. 

"If anywhere in America is going to pull it off, it's here in the Bay Area," Walker said.  

He said many unions have shrinking and some union workers are prevented by contracts from walking off the job, so a union-sanctioned general strike may be difficult to achieve. However, he said, many public servants are likely to join in the protest on Wednesday. 

Walker said the response from students in the Bay Area is likely to be great, especially students at UC Berkeley. 

Several rallies and marches are planned Wednesday at 14th Street and Broadway. At 5 p.m., marchers will head to the Port of Oakland to try to shut it down.