CTU Assesses Situation with Sober Eyes
By Jim Vail
The Chicago Teachers Union officers seemed to be a bit more realistic in their assessment of the how things really are in the schools heading into the final year of the 3 year contract that heralded the first teachers' strike in over 25 years.
"We need an even assessment of what is good and bad," CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey told the delegates last week. "We're going to learn some lessons about our demands. We have a real fight in front of us."
Sharkey told the delegates that while gains were made by the strike - mostly keeping merit pay off the table and our lane and step salaries on, as well as being able to appeal low evaluations - the teachers were hit hard with an unprecedented 50 school closings, a longer school day and a new evaluation system from hell.
"The evaluations are the most common complaint," Sharkey said to heads shaking up and down at the House of Delegates meeting May 7 at the Operating Engineers hall. "It's a nightmare and stressful."
The union officials seemed a bit more subdued in contrast to their past rhetoric that the teachers strike was an unmitigated success.
A self proclaimed "expert" on the teachers union strike who writes for various liberal publications, Micah Uetricht, just recently published a blowhard account of the 2012 teachers strike, proclaiming: "The Chicago Teachers Union strike was the most important domestic labor struggle so far this century - and perhaps for the last 40 years - and the strongest challenge to the conservative agenda for restructuring education."
I mean, come on. This guy gives Barnum Bailey's proclamations of "The Greatest Show on Earth" a run for his money. I won't even mention the title of his book, although I did see him hanging out in front of the delegates meeting last week.
Anyway, back to reality.
The CTU president is already telling the media that the teachers will not exercise the fourth year of this contract, and negotiations will be beginning soon.
"Rahm says it expires in 2016," Lewis told the delegates. "Our contract goes from 2012 - 2015 (with the option of adding another year). It's up to our membership to decide. We could decide to negotiate first. We need job security in this contract."
The hall, filled with over 400 school delegates, erupted in applause.
Sharkey's somber assessment of today's situation in the schools led to what teachers need to beware of in the next contract fight.
He said the mayor Rahm Emanuel will be cautious what he says next time around ("the teachers got a raise and the students got the shaft") which helped ignite the teachers to fight.
"I think the board (of education) will be more coy on the time line (in the next contract negotiations)," Sharkey said.
Sharkey said there will be big questions the next time around for teaches to decide if they want to walk off the job again.
"What will we actually win?" he said. "It is more of a practical decision of our power to go into a fight."
The fight will be tougher from the business class who want to curb the union's power, while teachers are a bit demoralized after the last strike.
Sharkey put out some good news for the delegates in terms of fighting back on poor evaluations. He said the union took 40 cases to arbitration and overturned 75%.
There was also good news for the teachers who saw their schools closed the year before. All but 23 got jobs in other schools, Sharkey said.