Thursday, June 4, 2015

To Strike or Not to Strike

To Strike or Not to Strike?
By Jim Vail

Hammond teachers showing Red solidarity on Fridays!

It almost seemed like the pink elephant in the room.

Here we were attending the last Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates meeting of the 2014 - 2015 school year on June 3, with our contract a few weeks away from ending, and not a peep about a strike during the opening question and answer period.

So as the delegate for Hammond Elementary School, I wanted to ask about a possible strike. A question many teachers across the city want to know with the Chicago Board of Education threatening to cut up to 10% of teachers' pay, according to the CTU.

A teacher who took the mic right before me then asked the question - what is the time line for a possible strike? Teachers are worried that after a long summer with no pay it may be difficult to go on strike with more days of no pay.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the earliest date for a possible strike would be sometime in late October. He said the negotiation team is still in the early stages of talks. It may not be until the cold month of January when teachers could be picketing their schools. 

"It might be a good time to avoid big purchases," Sharkey said, to a smattering of laughter.

He encouraged the CTU delegates to take informal strike votes in their schools and send the results to the union.

Sharkey said the non-binding strike vote the teachers took in 2012 before the end of the year which led to the first teachers strike in over 25 years told the union how much the CTU members wanted to strike.

Several shout outs from delegates at the Operating Engineers Hall said their teachers are ready to strike.

However, the CTU leadership did not appear to promote the idea of a strike just yet.

"Are we ready to fight for our rights," Sharkey said, to pump up the crowd.

But rather than build up the teachers to stand up and generate excitement for a possible strike, the energy level in the room was mild at best on the topic.

Surprisingly, the room erupted in a maddening roar when CTU President Karen Lewis exclaimed that the teachers voted in favor of a union at Urban Prep Charter School.

In fact, Lewis repeated it twice, and teachers erupted in excitement a second time.

The CTU is focused on unionizing charter school teachers, which is a mighty battle to fight. Charters are anti-union.

But the current war is the contract and whether or not to use the most powerful weapon a union has - the strike! 

You would think with all the negative publicity surrounding the contract talks that the teachers were ready to fight and all the leadership had to do was throw a match.

However, rather than pump up the crowd, Lewis had this to say on the topic of a strike.

"No one likes a strike," she told the delegates on Wednesday. "But we will fight for our dignity and fight for our schools."

The union is focused on next week's June 9th rally at the Thompson Center at 5pm. They are organizing buses for the various schools around the city and encouraging everyone to attend.

Just about every teacher stood up when asked if they would attend the June 9th rally. 

And of course, teachers wearing red on Fridays is another key step to show solidarity among all CTU members.

But does it look like we are ready to strike again?

By the likes of it, I would say no, not at the moment.

Of course, we live and work in the Windy City, and who knows what the future will bring.    

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your continued reporting! See you Tuesday June 9th at the Rally for better schools, a just community, and unity in our community.