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*** UPDATED x1 - Emanuel: “Not strikeable” *** Is the strike legal?

Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012

* Chuck Goudie asks a good question: Is the Chicago teachers strike legal?

There is a new state law in place that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says bans teachers from striking for anything other than compensation. Emanuel says the two issues remaining on the table have nothing to do with that, raising the question: is this a legal strike?

Mayor Emanuel has repeatedly made the statement that the teachers union is conducting a strike of choice, and that teachers are striking over two items that are not subject to a job action under current Illinois law.

Emanuel says the law states teachers may strike only because of compensation, and according to the mayor, neither of the disputed contract items involve pay or benefits. […]

According to Mayor Emanuel, teacher evaluation and teacher staffing are the two issues.

Mayor Emanuel: “Neither one of these issues are allowed to be strikeable by law…yet these are the final two issues.” […]

An attorney for the Chicago Teachers Union says, although some items have been resolved Monday, there are many more than two open issues remaining, some involve compensation, and that Mayor Emanuel is wrong: teachers are permitted under the law to strike for certain non-pay issues, even including air-conditioned classrooms.

* From a CTU press release

“Recognizing the Board’s fiscal woes, we are not far apart on compensation. However, we are apart on benefits. We want to maintain the existing health benefits.”

So, there is a financial component to this, and the union appears to be almost accepting the four-year 16 percent pay raise (following a 4 percent cut this past year). The Board has offered this for health insurance

The Board is calling for a modification to the health care plan funding that will freeze all employee health care contributions for single and couple plans with a small increase in family contributions of no more than $20 a pay period in addition to a small increase in emergency room co-pays. 67 percent of all CTU members will not see a change to their healthcare.

* But this is also from the same CTU press release

“While new Illinois law prohibits us from striking over the recall of laid-off teachers and compensation for a longer school year, we do not intend to sign an agreement until these matters are addressed.”

So, they can’t legally strike over those two issues, but they are anyway.

This goes back to something I wrote during the state education reform negotiations. Teachers went on strike a whole lot more back in the days when state law expressly prohibited strikes. Drastically limiting their collective bargaining rights will not stop them now.

It’s just that simple.

*** UPDATE *** Sun-Times

As Chicago Public Schools teachers hit the picket lines for a second day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said repeatedly Tuesday that what he sees as the two key issues for teachers are “not strikeable“ and that he would rather settle the strike at the bargaining table than the courtroom.

“My view is to work these issues out at the table. That’s what I want to do. That is where I want to achieve it,” Emanuel said Tuesday. […]

The teachers union, however, disagrees, saying that the teacher evaluation process is an issue they can legally strike over, and the city could not successfully go to court to stop the strike by getting an injunction.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ravenswood Right Winger - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:04 am:

    If the strike is illegal, Rahm should go to court over it. If it’s illegal, it’d be proper to fire them.

  2. - Esquire - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:07 am:

    Agreed. If the new law clearly supports the mayor’s position, why weren’t his lawyers in court yesterday? I suspect that Emanuel may have distorted the facts to add weight to his arguments in the media. If it were an absolutely clear statute, Emanuel would have had the lawyers in court already.

  3. - OneMan - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:10 am:

    Figure a third party will be in court on this within a couple of days….

  4. - Liberty First - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:10 am:

    Say Rahm goes to court and fires all the teachers. Where is he going to get replacements especially in the gang and drug infested schools. Chicago looses 1000 teachers a year, many of them go to the suburbs because Chicago’s schools average teacher pay is high because entry level salaries are high.

  5. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    ===If it were an absolutely clear statute, Emanuel would have had the lawyers in court already.===

    It’s absolutely clear.

  6. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:14 am:

    All true, Liberty First.

  7. - OneMan - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:16 am:

    Holding fire a couple of days makes sense for Rahm, if a judge were to order everyone back now they would get almost no-one returning.

    Give it a few days you would have some teachers cross…

  8. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:20 am:

    ===if a judge were to order everyone back now they would get almost no-one returning.===

    Exactly right.

  9. - Doing it for the Children - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:21 am:

    Fire 20,000+ teachers…yikes. Although, run an ad in the Trib and the Times that 20k teaching jobs are opening up in Chicago, starting pay 50k and full benefits and you might get some resumes from all around the country.

  10. - MrJM - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:23 am:

    If the strike is illegal, Rahm should go to court over it. If it’s illegal, it’d be proper to fire them.

    I wonder how Rahm going to court to break a strike would affect President Obama’s numbers in the swing-states of Ohio and Mich where his campaign is working hard to woo union households. Actually, I don’t wonder — it would gut the Obama campaign’s efforts.

    And for that reason, it will never — ever — happen

    – MrJM

  11. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:23 am:

    ===you might get some resumes from all around the country. ===

    At the rate that the CPS moves, it’ll be five years before they process all those apps.

    Just sayin…

  12. - WesternCamel - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:30 am:

    They never said they were striking based solely on these two issues, only that they wouldn’t *sign an agreement* until these matters were addressed. That leaves a great deal of gray area — including rapid-fire give and take discussion — without melodramatically declaring it a black/white legal concern. Interesting how some are just itchin’ to fire teachers — I doubt these unhappy detractors would be suitable replacements for patiently guiding and instructing our school children.

  13. - Esquire - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:31 am:

    If history is a guide, past experience in such labor disputes demonstrates that you do not go to court to fire 26,000 teachers immediately. The court would enter an injunction and order the teachers to return to their classrooms. If the union balked, Karen Lewis and the union officers might be jailed for a few days for contempt. Done. Teacher firings would not be taken up until other steps failed.

    Presidential politics and other considerations may be playing a role in Emanuel’s decision not to file suit.

  14. - jeff in gold - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    It’s legal. Because if I agree that the money is ok if you take these items away. But if the items remain I want more money.

    That is what the union is saying anyhow.

  15. - Doing it for the Children - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    ==At the rate that the CPS moves, it’ll be five years before they process all those apps.==

    It might get some teachers to rethink their position in the picket line. And it would most certainly get some re-applications from some of the lower paid teachers already working in CPS. Either way, it isn’t realistic.

  16. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    MrJM is correct.

  17. - Lakeview - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:35 am:

    One correction (I think): if I recall correctly, there was not a 4% cut last year. The pay stayed the same, but teachers did not get a 4% increase that they had been expecting. Yes?

  18. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:39 am:

    ===It’s legal. Because if I agree that the money is ok if you take these items away. But if the items remain I want more money.===

    In most negotiations, that would certainly be the case.

    In this instance, though, we have the union on record officially stating that they won’t end the strike until they get what they can’t ask for.

    There’s a difference.

  19. - Billy - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:41 am:

    Maybe the political leaders in Springfield will realize now, how hard it will be to tackle pension reform, after seeing how teachers unions will fight agaist unjust reforms!

  20. - OneMan - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    It isn’t going to be Rahm who goes to court, it is going to be some third party. Who ideally (depending on ones point of view) orders the teachers back.
    The teachers of course, refuse causing fines to happen and union leaders to be jailed for contempt all of which will put pressure on the union.

    While this is going on, Rahm says “I didn’t go to court, but lets solve this thing”

    He isn’t going to go after the union in court, someone is going to do that for him and the press reveal on this is the first step.

  21. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:45 am:

    What would be the point of going to court? It’s not like there are 20,000 teachers standing in line with resume to take those jobs.

  22. - Ace Matson - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:48 am:

    It would be hard to prove what issues the strike is really based on, without opening up all the labor negotiations to public courtroom testimony. That implicates federal labor law privileges. The admissions by the union leaders is probably not enough. It’s more complicated then that. Anyway, public employee strikes ought to be illegal. They are very different from strikes in the private sector.

  23. - Anonymice - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    WesternCamel is right. Saying they won’t sign an agreement that doesn’t provide for laid off teacher recall and for compensation for longer days is not the same as saying they will continue the strike if those are the only two points of disagreement. AFSCME hasn’t signed an agreement with the State, but it’s not on strike.

  24. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:06 am:

    I agreed with Rich’s comment when the law was originally passed. It sounds workable, but really isn’t very effective. Especially when the school system obviously isn’t going to close for good or move. Given enough perceived serious problems with management, unions will (and should, IMO) strike. The rest is how much pain they can and will take while out, legal or otherwise.

  25. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    I’m friends on Facebook with JK, an outspoken advocate of the “school reform” movement.

    One of the things I get from JK’s posts online is that he takes the attitude that teachers should just accept losing ground in the state legislator. Once an issue is decided in Springfield, then CTU has no right to object to it.

    I think JK reflects the attitude of the people aligned with Emanuel and the “school reform” movement.

    But it shows how disrespectful Emanuel and the “school reform” people are.

    Rather than negotiating to implement their vision, they manipulate the process.

    Amazingly, CTU and individual teachers feel like they are bargaining with a bad faith partner.

    The strike will be longer than it needs to be because Emanuel has behaved badly.

    But having a long strike is an acceptable outcome to him b/c his agenda is to reduce the number of schools that are part of the collective bargaining agreement. So, every day of strike is a victory for him (in his mind) of advancing his goal of having all schools either be charter schools or fully privatized.

    Emanuel is Chicago’s first reform mayor. Emanuel isn’t there to serve the culture of city jobs. He’s there to serve the banks and the capital class.

    And the banks and the capital class want to diminish the power of labor unions and to make public services available to be privatized so they can make lots of money without risk. They don’t have to produce new goods and services. They just capture the services government already provides. And then they sit on their bank accounts and skim a portion of the tax revenue every year.

  26. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    As long as privatizing public services is an option, it’s a little absurd to say that public employees can’t strike because they are “public”.

    Management is trying to make them “not public”.

  27. - dave - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:19 am:

    **we have the union on record officially stating that they won’t end the strike until they get what they can’t ask for.**

    Sorry Rich, but this isn’t true. CTU has said they won’t sign an agreement that doesn’t address these two issues. They didn’t say they wouldn’t end the strike without addressing these two issues.

    Further, CTU has some of the best legal representation around. The CTU legal folks will make sure that everything is done aggressively, but legally.

  28. - mokenavince - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    The longer a strike goes the more complicated things get.Out of state rabble rousers show up
    politicans start sticking their noses in it.

    It just ain’t pretty,the name calling gets

  29. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:40 am:

    Good point, mokenavince. If this drags out, both sides could be forced into less palatable solutions than if they settle quickly.

  30. - Makandadawg - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    Once again we have law written for the wrong reasons and in a manner that is unenforceable. Good job Springfield.

  31. - MrJM - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 11:45 am:

    It just ain’t pretty, the name calling gets rougher.

    And yesterday it started off pretty rough:

    – MrJM

  32. - Steve Bartin - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:08 pm:

    Will Rahm channel his inner Calvin Coolidge?

    “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”


  33. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:15 pm:

    CPS reneged on the 4% raises this past year. What guarantee does anyone have that the proposed raises will actually be implemented? Is there now I double promise cross my flinty little heart language in this contract? I mean, fool me once here, folks.

    If they jailed Karen Lewis, I think I know enough of her character, that she would consider it an honor! And everyone who voted for the other candidate in the last CTU election would immediately forget they had ever supported anyone other than her.

  34. - geronimo - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:19 pm:

    I think most people underestimate the rage that has been aroused in teachers. The demand that they, the victims of theft, pay dearly for the legislature’s failure to invest and guard their pension fund, the insane drumbeat to tie standardized test scores to teacher evaluations, the daily trashing of them as worthless, lazy professionals who (some say) have no right to call themselves that……etc. etc. There is blind rage over the disrespect and dismissal of the job they do. When all is working well, all of the above trash applies to them. When on strike, suddenly they become the most important people in the world (if you have school aged children). So, which is it? No other professionals have daily scathing editorials written about them. Name one. OK. I guess legislators do count, haha. But this stike and the ones looming have so much more behind them than pay/benefits. Fire them all? Go ahead! Maybe some of those critical of their jobs might step up in “difficult” areas and gladly tie their performance and test success to evaluations. I predict this strike will go on for longer than folks would like, precisely because of the rabid nature of the anti-teacher climate in general. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I have no clue in this world why anyone would do this job.

  35. - Eugene - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:25 pm:

    On my way to work this morning there were a bunch of teachers singing and waving signs at the corner of Pratt and Western. The response they got from people driving by was overwhelmingly positive - lots of honks and thumbs up signs. This fits with the Fox News poll that shows Chicagoans in favor of the strike by a 2-1 margin.

    Despite their massive financial resources, the school “reform” folks do not have the support of most people. Why else would Emanuel’s operatives have to pay people to create a facade of community support for school closings?

    The “reformers” are a bunch of financial types and rich folks who think they know better than parents and teachers. Despite all their money, their arrogance has tripped them up this time. I think Rich’s analysis yesterday hit the nail on the head.

  36. - whetstone - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:26 pm:

    MrJM’s got a good point about why Emanuel won’t go the full Reagan. Also worth considering that he’s on shaky ground, politically. It’s possible that the ground has shifted, but back in May the union was far outpolling Emanuel in terms of public support. Dunno if the strike changes that, but he was starting with an uphill battle:

  37. - Cincinnatus - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    While we’re at it, let’s level the funding for which CPS is disproportionately compensated from IL funding. Let the Chicago taxpayers’ property taxes increase by sufficient amount to cover the increases.

  38. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    –“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”–

    Except, of course, Steve, the CTU has a right to strike, by law.

    Not all of us are nostalgic for the good old days of 1919 when institutional anti-Catholic bigotry prevented an Irishman from making an honest living to feed his family, even when he was working as a cop in Boston.

    Rich raises some good points as to whether the CTU is striking on legal grounds. But grounds do exist, under law.

  39. - Steve Bartin - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:33 pm:

    Karen Lewis, rightly or wrongly, isn’t worried about the law. Lisa Madigan and Eric Holder aren’t going to apply whatever law to unions who want to strike in Chicago.

  40. - D.P. Gumby - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:41 pm:

    CPS cancelled the 4% pay increase called for under existing contract before it ended. CTU called that an unfair labor practice and says it is formally striking on that basis. Doesn’t that skirt the Illinois statute?

  41. - foster brooks - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:42 pm:

    Funny how the right wing whacko’s at the illinois policy ins. slam the teachers when the REAL problem starts with the parents and community . I dare anyone on this blog to go into an Inglewood school and teach. Go ahead I dare you.

  42. - D.P. Gumby - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:44 pm:

  43. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 12:55 pm:

    Steve, you quoted the “wisdom” of Silent Cal in regards to labor.

    If you’re going to do that, recognize the context of that quote. In doing so, you’re implicitly endorsing his position on the Boston Police Strike.

    This ain’t 1919 Boston, thank goodness. A little thing called progress has happened along the way.

  44. - Jeff Park Mom - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 1:33 pm:

    I’m with Eugene. Standing with my son’s teachers at Jeff Park train station this AM we got a whole lot of love coming from the horn-honking, luck-wishing public. How do you think the voting parents would react if you fired our kids’ teachers and threw our schools up for grabs?

  45. - geronimo - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 1:37 pm:

    The “luck wishing” public needs to make their voice heard loud and clear. Not enough to honk.

  46. - Ace Laredo - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 1:49 pm:

    Hey come on now guys, fight fair for god’s sake:

    (whoever made that sign is hilarious)

  47. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 1:52 pm:

    ==Standing with my son’s teachers at Jeff Park train station this AM we got a whole lot of love coming from the horn-honking, luck-wishing public.==
    The Jeff Park train station is northwest side of Chicago, and northwest side is filled with city workers who would be on the CTU’s side. That said, the city needs to do a much better job of explaining why they are being plenty generous in their offer to teachers.

  48. - dupage dan - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 2:54 pm:

    I am amazed that, in the current climate, people would strike after being offerd a 16% raise over 4 years. I believe that principals should have the right to hire and fire as the executives of a particular school. I have concerns about the teacher evaluation process. Like foster brooks said @ 12:42pm, parents and the community play such a large part in how any particular student responds to the school/learning. If the parents don’t care enough to make sure the students are studying and doing their homework, don’t show up for parent teacher conferences and fail toprovide a home environment that is supportive of learning, the teachers’ job is far more difficult. If you have a whole classroom with students who fit varying levels of this dysfunction, teaching can be extremely difficult.

    While I may be sympathetic, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that there are a whole lot of incompetent teachers out there and there has to be a way to identify and weed them out.

  49. - geronimo - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 3:14 pm:

    ====being offered 16% raise over 4 years===

    First off, the strike is not about compensation if you’ve been following…….secondly, that number gets funny when reported to the public. Usually sensationalized. I seriously doubt that every person is getting 16% across the board. I’m sure that that is the absolute highest raise that any one teacher can get over 4 years. I’d like to see the allocation of that money before that became gospel.

  50. - geronimo - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 3:57 pm:

    Regarding the whys:

  51. - cermak_rd - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 4:43 pm:

    ====being offered 16% raise over 4 years===

    Continuing geronimo’s thoughts:

    Third off, what guarantee is there that those increases will arrive in those years given the 4% that was not given that had been negotiated?

    One of the parties has already shown that they do not bargain in good faith.

  52. - TwoFeetThick - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 4:54 pm:

    Legal or not, the strike demonstrates the beautiful power that workers wield when they act in unison. Regardless of what the law allows them to do. If all of your employees walk off the job, even if the law says they can’t, what are you going to do to stop them? “Fire them!” Shout those on the right. But, that’s usually not possible, unless you want to cripple yourself anyway. If every employee of Wal-Mart walked off the job tomorrow demanding higher wages and benefits, the company would have to do something to accommodate them or it would crumble and cease to exist. The 1% just don’t think the rest of us have the stones to do that, so they continue to drive wages down without repercussions. And they’re generally right.

  53. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 6:55 pm:

    The union is striking over compensation.

    They have suggested a compromise plan that includes raises that are far less than recommended by a mediator, in exchange for other considerations.

    This is a labor negotiation. The parties are free to discuss, negotiate, and agree to anything they want as part of those negotiations.

    If both sides agree, they can include a provision requiring Brizard to wear a Cat-in-the-Hat hat whenever he’s on school grounds (so he’s easily identifiable).

  54. - Jack - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 9:15 pm:

    Since state bargaining unit employees are being threatened with a pay cut, that seems like they have good grounds for a strike.

  55. - dave - Tuesday, Sep 11, 12 @ 10:11 pm:

    **The union is striking over compensation.**

    Officially, yes. Unofficially, no. The strike is about MUCH bigger things than compensation - teacher evals, privatization of the public school system, more resources for students, etc.

    **This is a labor negotiation. The parties are free to discuss, negotiate, and agree to anything they want as part of those negotiations.**

    This is, mostly, true. But not all of these “anythings” are legally allowable reasons to go on strike. Which is why, officially, the strike is about compensation and unfair labor practices.

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