Will the Chicago Teachers Union Strike?
By Jim Vail
Special to Mychinews.com
The Chicago Teachers Union has rejected the fact-finder’s report that agreed with the Chicago Public Schools argument about funding limitations and is free to go on strike next month.
The question then for Chicago parents is, will the strike happen May 16th and what will it mean for their children.
First of all, there is no declared strike yet. This is currently what is called the “cooling off” period of the negotiations process where both sides will continue to negotiate, and should there be no agreement, the CTU will then have to issue a 10-day strike notice.
There will most likely not be a strike next month for the following reasons. First, it is the end of the year when there is graduation for high school, middle school and kindergarten students, so it would really make a mess (although some of my teaching colleagues said isn’t that the point of a strike?).
You will need the teachers to fully support the timing of the strike, and it appears they would not support this, although the union leadership said they will canvass the schools to get a better reading on how teachers feel about this.
Another area of concern for CTU members is that the end of the year is a tough time to strike when the school year is practically over (officially the last day for teachers is June 21). There would be questions about how to make up the missed days and then CPS can cancel the remaining school year, and blame that on the teachers.
So, if you’re a CPS parent, think the fall. That is when most likely a teachers strike will happen.
There are three basic criteria that the CTU is looking for in this contract that was emailed to CTU members (I am a current CTU member):
1. Create enforceable class-size limits so the number of students don’t increase in the classrooms via layoffs and attrition,
2. Be ‘economically’ reasonable so that the standard of living is not lower by the end of a multi-year contract than at the beginning,
3. Close loopholes to ensure a charter-school moratorium, and an end to school closings, enact progressive revenue solutions and a pension levy.
The real power lies with the president of the CTU and the mayor of Chicago. They ultimately will agree or not on a new contract.
CTU President Karen Lewis said she liked the first tentative contract offer until her bargaining team rejected it.
Lewis now is telling the media they just need to “tweak” the language so there is a real offer on the table.
It would appear that if President Lewis is working closely with CPS to make this happen, a strike will be avoided.
However, there is no guarantee.
The last major teachers’ strike was in 2012 and there was no school for seven days.
Past strikes lasted much longer. And this one, should it happen, shows that an entrenched battle could potentially mean not one week, but several weeks of teachers walking picket lines and classes cancelled.
So there are still a lot of questions, and still some time before any decision regarding a strike is made.
This is not 2012. There is no personality battle between Karen Lewis and Rahm Emanuel.
But the stakes are even higher. There is a serious problem with revenue that the city appears not to be interested in fixing – such as suing the banks for toxic loans that have sapped millions from the city, enacting a stock transaction tax such as one in New York that would generate a few billion dollars, eliminating the Tax Increment Financing slush fund for the mayor and putting the tax monies back into the schools.
The state legislature already has a progressive revenue bill waiting approval in the house in which the rich would pay more while the poor would pay less, and generate a lot more income for the schools.
The current contract offer included a phase-out of the district’s 7% teacher pension pick-up and an increase to health care costs. The latest offer would gradually make up the 7% cut via incremental raises in each of the four years of the new tentative contract.
“We’re going to try to tweak this a little bit better,” Lewis told reporters at a Monday press conference. “They still have an opportunity to come up with something that is addressing the issues that we have.”
The district’s budget this year relied on nearly a half-billion dollars in funding from Springfield that never came through. So money is tight and CPS continues to borrow at exorbitant rates that further enriches the bankers at the schools’ expense.