Oklahoma House Passes $6,000 Pay Increase, But Teachers Say They Will Still Strike

Striking teachers in the West Virginia State Capitol (AP).

Yesterday, the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would give teachers and public employees a $6,000 dollar a year raise.

The bill was paid for by increasing taxes on oil and gas production in the state as well as increasing taxes on hotel costs, tobacco, and consumer usage of diesel and gasoline.

The $447 million bill marked the first time since 1990 that any chamber of the Oklahoma state legislature has voted to increase taxes. The measure is expected to pass the Senate as well.

The bill came as teachers in the state are threatening to strike next Monday, April 2nd, unless they receive a dramatic increase in pay. Teachers’ unions in more than 170 of the state’s 500 school districts have indicated they intend to strike on Monday April 2nd if their demands are not met.

Teachers in Oklahoma are the 49th lowest paid in the country. 90 school districts have switched to 4 day school weeks so that teachers could work part-time jobs to make ends meet.

Currently, Oklahoma has one of the lowest tax rates on oil and gas production in the country at a mere 2% while rival energy-producing states like North Dakota tax revenue from these industries at 12%.

However, the oil and gas industry is lobbying hard against the bill.

This afternoon, teachers’ union officials report that oil and gas lobbyists were actually out on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol grilling food for state legislators in the hopes of dissuading them from voting for the tax increase.

“They are all over the building talking to legislators and senators to convince them this is a job killer,”  Ed Allen, president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers told Payday Report. “They brought food out there to try to make it as friendly [for the legislators] as possible.”

However, even if the state Senate does pass the bill, it’s not clear that the workers would refrain from striking. The idea of the strike has attracted mass popular support and at this point, concerns remain that the bill doesn’t do enough to guarantee funding and doesn’t meet teachers’ demands of a $10,000 a year salary increase.

Allen said that he is advising AFT members to return to work if the deal passes because he is worried about school district superintendents taking legal action against unions.

“If schools open and you aren’t reporting to work, it’s illegal,” said Allen.  “The thing can’t sustain itself when districts start pulling their support, which they will.”

However, the Oklahoma Education Association, which represents the majority of teachers in the state, says that it intends to strike no matter what bills pass the Senate.

“April 2 is still on. Our ask is still our ask,” said the Oklahoma Education Association in a statement.

Donate to Help Payday Travel to Cover Oklahoma’s Teacher’s Strike. 

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter who covered everything from Lula & the Brazilian labor movement to major league baseball. He spent years covering union organizing in the South for The Guardian and was labeled by the New York Times as an "abrasive gadfly" for exposing within the labor movement. Raised in a UE union family in Pittsburgh, Elk was illegally for union organizing at Politico in 2015 and used his NLRB settlement to start the crowd-funded Payday Report. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and is fluent in both Pittsburghese and Portuguese, which he learned when attending journalism school at PUC-Rio de Janerio. Email: [email protected]

5 Comments on "Oklahoma House Passes $6,000 Pay Increase, But Teachers Say They Will Still Strike"

  1. I agree that the teachers and state workers deserve a pay raise. A $6000 increase is a substantial pay raise. It certainly feels like the teacher’s union is advocating blackmail. This is about lining the pockets of the union. I am disgusted.

  2. Teachers are supposed to be role models for our children. They are supposed to teach them lessons they need to be productive members of society and productive adults. By going out on strike no matter what the bill says only teaches our children that if you don’t get what you want just yell and scream until you do. Teachers should have been addressing voters and the government and negotiate every year I agree teachers need a pay raise, 49th out of 50 is embarrassing. I do not believe a strike “no matter what” teaches anything good.

  3. The government hasn’t put money towards the teachers or education for years. We are loosing teachers to higher paying, and adding teachers without adequate training. The education system needs money just for teachers but for the school system. You are hurting our children and our future. Come on compare us to other states and you will see whyv our education is rated at the bottom. Cut your salaries and put to the future of our state!!!!!

  4. The teachers need to get over themselves! I pay my taxes to keep schools and education for our kids going. They are being greedy and selfish! Tell me anyone who makes the money they per hour considering summers off and every Holiday!

    • They are OFF over 3 months per year! I think they make good money considering that and that parents pay for all materials for classrooms these days. They can work in the summe to supplement pay.

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