Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Elect Kei Swensen

Vote Kei Swensen OEA 2nd Vice President
13 years teaching in Oakland

  • OEA Executive Board member
  • OEA delegate to the NEA RA
  • CTA State Council Rep.

I have heard many stories about what drives OEA members to do the work that they do; what moves them to become active in union work.  Listening to others, sharing our stories:  building relationships...this is what makes our union stronger.
This my story...

I started my teaching career 13 years ago as an intern through the OUSD Cal State Hayward credential program. Experiencing the pressures of No Child Left Behind, years of program improvement, and the threat of school closure, I optimistically and naively opted to take a leave of absence from OUSD to work in a charter school on my site.

"They" said charter schools were not anti-union; to organize if need be. Promises made were not kept; contract language was interpreted as they saw fit; and if we didn't go with the flow, we were at-will employees- no due process, we could would find ourselves jobless if we didn't play by their arbitrary rules.

To make a long story short, our efforts to unionize were undermined.  I attempted a return to OUSD where I would actually have protected rights. It wasn’t until OEA stepped in however, to ensure my contractual rights to return were honored, that the District acted to find me a placement.

I was in my own safe bubble for so long, it wasn't until that bubble was burst that I realized what I had taken for granted:  the need for collective bargaining rights, protection through fair representation, and the power of a strong union.

This experience has propelled me into become active in our association.