Monday, August 13, 2012

Chicago Teacher Strike Looming?

Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons

Students begin classes Monday at the roughly one-third of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that are on a year-round schedule. Meanwhile, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president Karen Lewis is saying that a resolution of contract negotiations before then is virtually impossible, the Chicago Sun Times reported on Friday. Lewis went on to say that they hadn’t even started talks on compensation because they have been focusing on the smaller items during their 41 bargaining sessions. CTU is warning all teachers to prepare for a strike, as contract resolution may still not occur by September, when the rest of the schools are set to open.

A work stoppage on Monday would necessarily be a wildcat strike, however, as the union is required to give a 10-day warning to CPS and they have been forbidden from striking before August 18.

CTU is not going to sanction an illegal strike, especially with an interim deal still on the table. The interim deal would include the much touted longer school day for students, but not for teachers. This would require the hiring of many more teachers and bring many of the recently laid-off teachers back to the classroom.

The deal was a smart move by CPS, which has been demanding numerous concessions from the teachers. The longer work day may have been the most onerous of these concessions, as the district was demanding a 90-minute longer work day from teachers without extra compensation. It was also an easy one to give up (at least for the short-term), as an arbitrator recommended the district give a 20% raise for the longer hours. Thus, the district can spin itself as being reasonable and fair. It is hoping this compromise will convince teachers to accept the other concessions and avoid a strike—not an unreasonable expectation considering how averse to strikes teachers and especially unions have become.

One of these other concessions is CPS’ demand that student test scores be used in teachers’ evaluations and job security, something all teachers should oppose as the scores are unreliable and correlate much more strongly with students’ socioeconomic backgrounds than with teacher skill (see here, here and here).

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