On Friday, December 16, Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) teachers joined together for a walk-in before school started in order to support the Los Angeles teachers that are on strike, as well as to call attention to the demands of teachers across America. While each district may face unique problems, common demands for higher pay and smaller class sizes are voiced across the nation.
On the day of the walk-in, teachers arrived at their schools early, wearing red and carrying signs with the words “We stand with LA Teachers,” and “We love our jobs but we can’t afford them.” At Berkeley High School (BHS), the teachers formed a line between the A-Gate and Milvia Street. Teachers also spoke into microphones, leading their colleagues in chants. The walk-in aimed to not disrupt teaching, and as school started the teachers filed back into their classrooms.
Masha Albrecht, a BHS math teacher who took part in the walk-in, was happy with how many of the BHS staff turned out. “It really pleased me because I feel the staff is sometimes very fractured and here we did something together,” she said.
The walk-in was held in conjunction with the roughly 35,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) who have been on strike since January 14. BHS teachers have partnered with Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. BHS and Roosevelt High have become “sister schools” as BHS teachers aide them by creating posters and raising money to pay for food donations, such as coffee and bagels, for their picket lines. The partnership is facilitated by the Unified Teachers of Los Angeles, who organized the Los Angeles strike. Albrecht said she felt the situation for teachers is similar everywhere. “I’ve been in this profession for 30 years,” she said, “and the power has shifted out of our hands.”
The next day, a “Red for Ed” rally took place in Oakland. The “Red for Ed” movement was originally started by the National Education Association and aims to spread awareness across the country about the limited funds available to public school teachers. In Oakland, hundreds of teachers and sympathizers wearing red met at Lake Merritt to stand in solidarity with the teachers on strike in Los Angeles. Other activist groups also attended, such as the East Bay Democratic Socialists of America, the Oakland Education Association, California Educators Rising, and Wildcat Underground.
Among the marchers was BHS senior, Melina Fike, who came to support her teachers. Fike, who has many family members that are teachers, understands a lot about the reality of working as a teacher. “I was already very aware [of] how many teachers cannot afford to live in the districts they teach in,” she said. These are not only relevant issues to teachers but ultimately impact students as well. “Our teachers care deeply about the conditions both themselves and the students are being put into,” Fike said. Albrecht expressed similar sentiments and said she feels that students are now under more stress, saying that their stress becomes hers as she sees them every day.
Another BHS senior, Sebastian Johnson, also attended the rally. “The students should be out there side by side with the teachers, it is our responsibility to have a presence at these events to send a message that we are rallying for a better education and in support of our teachers,” Johnson said.