State employees in Oklahoma voted Saturday to join a planned teachers' walkout next month if state lawmakers don't meet their demands for pay raises by April 2.
NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma Public Employees Association board of directors voted to move forward with the strike set to begin next month unless lawmakers approve more than $213 million in state employee pay raises by then.
Union officials told the website that they are beginning to work on work stoppage plans for use in the event of a strike next month.
"We are going to have to design different plans for different types of (state agency) work sites, and that's what we are going to be doing over the next week," said the union's communications director Tom Dunning.
Teachers in the state, which has the lowest education salaries in the nation, began planning a strike last week after a successful teachers' strike in West Virginia earlier this month led to lawmakers capitulating and agreeing to a statewide 5 percent raise for public employees.
More than 25,000 people had joined the Facebook group “Oklahoma Teacher Walkout – The Time Is Now!” by last weekend, and local news service KTUL reported that a group had met to discuss plans for a strike.
The teachers' plans to strike the first week of April is not a coincidence. That week marks the time Oklahoma's public school system begins standardized testing, a statewide effort that would be thrown into chaos by a work stoppage at even some schools.
"Frustration levels are high, so a strike is not a touchy word anymore," Molly Jaynes, an Oklahoma City teacher told KTUL. "I think we have surpassed the point of conversations, and I don't think that there's anything the legislators have provided us recently to give us any sort of hope that they're going to take actual actions this time.”