* I could be wrong (again), but I think we may be seeing the same sort of wildly exuberant union overreach in Chicago that we saw in Wisconsin a while back. You’ll recall that the unions managed to recall some Wisconsin state legislators, then failed to recall the governor.
CTU’s success at winning its 2012 strike has it thumping its collective chest during contract negotiations this year. The union held a big rally in Grant Park last night…
Chicago Teachers Union leaders exhorted thousands of members gathered for a rally in Grant Park on Monday to confront the city with the threat of a strike in the face of contract talks that have dragged on for more than a year.
“Now it’s time for us to act. We’ve been here before,” CTU President Karen Lewis, who led a seven-day strike in 2012, told the crowd at Petrillo Music Shell. “No teacher wants to go on strike. We prefer to be in front of our students. But we know that when we must, we will withhold our labor.”
While the union has yet to announce a strike authorization vote, a required step before a walkout can occur, organizers urged members to give them additional leverage.
“We want to remind people in this crowd about sometimes what it takes,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said in his speech to the red-clad crowd. “You will have a chance very soon to answer the question of how much resolve you have. And when you do, the answer will be ‘Yes.’”
In front of a screaming crowd of thousands who braved a frigid night to show their strength, and joined by legislators, pastors and other labor leaders, Lewis said, “It is time for us to act.”
“We must show the city, the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education and even our students and parents that Chicago’s public school educators will stand up for what is just and fair, and together we will fight to protect our professions and our classrooms,” Lewis said.
Despite its phony “practice strike vote” earlier this month, I don’t doubt that the union can convince at least 75 percent of its members to hit the bricks.
* What I’m not so confident of is whether the public will support the teachers like it did in 2012.
Chicagoans are being hit with record property tax hikes, with more likely on the way. The CTU has refused to support a bill sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton that would help alleviate the disaster…
“I don’t know the logic of the teachers’ union being opposed to the bill,” Cullerton said. “I think it’s maybe because, you know, the Board of Ed is for it and, therefore they have to be against it. That’s all I can figure, you know? The mayor’s for it, they’re against it because they had a fight with him in the past.”
Remember the 2012 teachers’ strike? That’s the fight Cullerton is referring to. And there’s been talk of a second teachers strike under Emanuel over the district’s current finances.
“Of course this would avoid a strike,” Cullerton said. “There wouldn’t be any need for them to lose their pension pick-up in their contract negotiations. There wouldn’t be any layoffs. I don’t know what else they’re striking about.”
“Three-eighteen is not about stopping a strike. Three-eighteen is about destroying our school system,” said Stacy Davis Gates, the legislative coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union.
* And the union is resisting all give-backs on pay and benefits…
Negotiations are stuck because the Board of Education is broke and is asking teachers to pay more for health insurance and pensions. That would mean lower take-home pay.
“$653 million dollars of cuts coming out of the pay, coming out of the pockets of people who make the schools go,” said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey.
Chicagoans may be looking for a bit more equity these days. We’ll know soon enough, but the CTU can easily be painted as obstructionists and the real problem now.