Chicago Teachers Strike Ends!
September 19, 2012 9:08 am
By: Matthew McDermott
A wave of elation swept across the population of teachers and parents in Chicago as the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) House of Delegates voted to suspend the teachers’ strike and resume classes beginning this morning. Union leaders had already approved the framework for a proposed contract, but needed the vote of the delegates in order to return to the classroom.
The delegates’ request for more time to review the contract framework irked Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday, causing him to threaten an injunction that would have forced teachers back into the classroom. But in a post-vote conference yesterday afternoon, realism carried the day.
CTU President Karen Lewis spoke on the impossibility of a perfect contract:
“We said we couldn’t solve all the problems. . .and it was time to suspend the strike,” CTU President Karen Lewis said at a news conference after the vote.
“The issue is, we cannot get a perfect contract. There’s no such thing as a contract that will make all of us happy..do we stay on strike forever until every little thing we want can be gotten?” Lewis went on, “I’m so thrilled that people are going back, all of our members are glad to be back with their kids. It’s a hard decision to make to go out, and for some people it’s hard to make the decision to go back in.”
Teachers clashed with the district and mayor over a proposed evaluation system that aimed to base 40 percent of teacher evaluations on student test scores. The proposed contract reduces the weight of test scores to 30 percent, the state minimum. In addition, the proposed contract mandates that half of the district’s hiring pool will be made up of laid-off teachers.
Emanuel laid down his rhetorical arms as well, speaking at Walter Payton College Prep on the terms of the proposed contract:
“This settlement is an honest compromise, it means returning our schools to their primary purpose, the education of our children.”
CTU teachers and delegates exited the site of the delegates’ vote (an Operating Engineers Hall) triumphant. Labor activists held signs proclaiming, “CTU Shows US Labor How to Fight.” And maybe that’s the lesson from the bitterly contested negotiations and resultant strike over the last week and a half.
CTU came together. They demonstrated solidarity when 98% of CTU members voted to authorize the strike. They demonstrated solidarity when they showed up at dawn to picket schools and inform parents of their grievances with teacher evaluation reform and the Mayor’s unilateral school day changes. They enjoyed public support rather than vilification. They made steps towards a progressive contract, and drew a fair compromise on teacher compensation while improving the educational experience for students.
Chicago taught us how, once again, to fight.
Image from here