Public school teachers declared a citywide strike today to protest the contract offered to them by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.
The two sides have been negotiating all summer over a new contract. The last one expired in June.
According to the Chicago Tribune, there are the three key issues:
Big enough raises
While the union says a 16-percent pay increase over four years is nearly adequate, there is still concern about whether it will cover rising health care costs. The city is also set to institute a longer school year this year, and teachers are looking for a larger first-year to cover the change.
Recalling laid-off teachers
The union wants more guarantees that teachers who get laid off can get their jobs back, especially since there are rumors the city will close dozens of schools this year.
The union wants to reduce the weight of student performance in teacher evaluations. The city says the issue was settled last March.
A Chicago Sun-Times editorial had this to say about the situation:
“The Chicago school system this weekend put a good — not perfect — but good offer on the table.
“But the union, clinging to an unrealistic notion of what it can accomplish through labor negotiations, rejected it.
“From the get-go, the union seemed intent on striking. Sunday happened to be the trigger day.”
This is the first teachers strike since the 1980s, and it’s instantly polarized the city.
While many support the teachers’ move…
Still more are outraged.
Why? Because the issue of teacher pay — while an issue — is actually the least contentious part of the whole negotiation.
At a time of mass crime in the city, and generally tight financial conditions, striking over evaluations and the challenge of laid-off workers getting their jobs back strikes many people as nuts.
That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate grievances, but we’re talking about the perception of parents now who can’t send their kids to school.
The counter argument from the teachers is basically: Their jobs are unsafe, the kids are suffering from small class sizes, and the test-score evaluations puts them at risk of being fired due to the mix of their students.
Here’s CTU President Karen Lewis’ statement from last night after talks failed:
And here’s Mayor Emanuel’s statement from after the union announced it would strike. He calls it “a strike of choice.”
Here’s a clip of strikers in front of the CTU’s downtown office:
Paul Schutz for Business Insider
Strikes are being planned pretty much everywhere:
We’ll continue to update