OAKLAND — Teachers in the city's public schools have granted union leaders the authority to call a longer strike to settle a labor dispute with the district.

One-quarter of the union's 2,800 members turned out to vote Monday night; the results were released Tuesday evening. Of the 755 ballots cast, about 75 percent were in favor of the authorization, the union reported.

The authorization means the union's 16-member board may call a strike that's less than 10 days long. An indefinite strike must be approved by a council of representatives from each of the district's 100-plus schools.

"It gives us a real mandate for what we've been doing: keeping the heat on the district," said Betty Olson-Jones, Oakland Education Association president.

The years-long contract battle took an unusual turn last month when the school board unanimously imposed a contract with no changes in compensation and then — almost immediately — signaled an interest to return to the table. Days later, the union carried out a one-day strike that had been authorized in January. The two sides are expected to set a date for bargaining Thursday.

Troy Flint, a school district spokesman, said it is the administration's goal to make teacher compensation competitive with that of nearby districts. "We don't consider this a doomsday scenario," he said. "We're encouraged by the fact that we're returning to the bargaining table, and I think both sides want to avoid a strike."


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Read Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog at www.ibabuzz.com/education. Follow her at Twitter.com/katymurphy.