Chicago Teachers Prepare to Strike
August 24, 2012 7:48 am
The brinksmanship between Chicago public school teachers and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel continued Wednesday as school delegates voted to authorize union president Karen Lewis to give a 10-day strike notice. Despite the agreement on longer school days and teacher hiring reached in late July, the Chicago Teachers Union and the district are still at odds over salary negotiations, class sizes and teacher evaluations.
The school year is four weeks away, and while the impasse between the district, mayor’s office and 19 unions represented within the school district is dire, the final result of the standoff could have lasting implications on negotiation tactics used by all of Chicago’s public unions. The district authorized a $25 million strike contingency plan Wednesday, which would cover “student safety” and also provide meals to the lower-income students that receive them at school. Contract negotiations have been going on since November of 2011, and teachers have been sending signals of their willingness to strike since June, when teachers came out in force with a 98% strike authorization vote.
The Associated Press reports on the arduous negotiations:
Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president told the Board of Education, at Wednesday’s meeting, “We have had 45 sessions of negotiations, and we’re still pretty far apart.”
Many teachers and union representatives feel that the tense negotiations are the result of Mayor Emmanuel’s control over the district, claiming that the mayor has been much more willing to spar with unions than former mayor Richard Daley.
In These Times reports:
Union leaders and progressive education experts say that the Chicago school system has become more corporate and top-down and less responsive to teacher and parent concerns ever since 1995, when the mayor’s office was given control of the system.
The same article reports on the sea change that took place when Emmanuel took office in 2011:
“He is ridiculous,” said Jeanine Trize, who has worked as a teacher’s aide in the schools for 22 years. “How can you come into a system you know nothing about and without working with the teachers and students just start changing things? We don’t have money to put our kids in private school like he does. We should be the ones deciding what happens in the public schools, not him.”
The school district’s Track E schools resumed session Monday, and teachers held informational pickets to apprise parents of the ongoing negotiations. Union president Karen Lewis spoke on the desire to get back in the classroom without making crippling concessions:
“After Labor Day we want to be where we belong—in the classroom. However, if talks continue as they have been, we will be where we need to be (and that is) on the line.”
Image from here