Chicago Teachers Union Takes the Upper Hand with Overwhelming Strike Vote
The Chicago Teachers Union lost an important skirmish with Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year when the state legislature passed Emanuel-backed legislation requiring a 75 percent vote to authorize a strike – a high number seen as a blow for teachers unions in Illinois.
But the attack apparently helped energize and mobilize the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), as a whopping 89 percent of teachers voted on June 11 to authorize a strike come fall (actually late summer) as highly contentious contract negotiations stretch on. Chicago teachers last went on strike in 1987.
Emanuel acknowledged the overwhelming vote but tried to minimize its significance by asking the public and media to focus on other numbers – the increased hours he wants kids in school. Teachers have repeatedly said they are not against a longer school day or school year, but demand appropriate pay raises in return. Emanuel rescinded a contractually obligated 4 percent raise for teachers during his first year in office, and now his administration is proposing a contract with a 2 percent raise while lengthening the work day from seven hours to seven hours and 40 minutes.
Many parents have pushed for a compromise, with more time in school but not as much as Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard are demanding. Critics of the longer day cite oppressive heat in many non-air conditioned buildings, other demands on students’ time and the inescapable fact that Chicago schools’ problems go much deeper than the number of hours in class.