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Topic: [ncsm-members] Teachers Union in Chicago to Extend Strike Into 2nd Week
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Teachers Union in Chicago to Extend Strike Into 2nd Week
Posted: Sep 16, 2012 10:45 PM
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From The New York Times, Sunday, September 16, 2012. See
Teachers Union in Chicago to Extend Strike Into 2nd Week

By Moncia Davey and Steven Yaccino

CHICAGO - The Chicago Teachers Union extended its strike into a
second week on Sunday, after significant divisions emerged among
union delegates over a deal that only a day before had been described
by the union's leader as "a good contract."

The announcement came after nearly 800 union representatives, the
House of Delegates, convened for several hours to decide whether to
end a strike that has drawn national attention in the debate over
teacher evaluations, job security and the length of a school day.

The decision forced 350,000 students in the nation's third-largest
school system to begin another week without classes and with no
strong indication of when they might resume.

Many Chicagoans had assumed school would start again on Monday, after
union leaders and city officials reached the outlines of a deal on
Friday, ending what had been days of long and sometimes contentious

But inside the closed-door meeting of the union's House of Delegates
on Sunday, opinion was split. Some delegates wanted to accept the
deal and return to school immediately, while others said they needed
time to digest its details, which they had not known until Sunday's
meeting. Still others objected to the new terms of the contract
entirely, suggesting that a resolution of this entire chapter may yet
be far from reach.

"I think everybody wants to be back in the classroom, but I think
everyone is nervous about a bad contract," Kevin Hugh, one of the
delegates, said as he left the meeting on this city's South Side,
where delegates had decided in a "standing vote" to continue their
strike. A clear majority, those present said, wanted to wait. "In the
end I think it's wise for members to have a day to review the
contract," Mr. Hugh said.

The decision infuriated school system officials, who had advised
parents on Friday to be ready to return their children to school on
Monday, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has suggested since the teachers
began striking a week ago that they ought to return to the classroom
even as negotiators finished the contract. Mr. Emanuel said he was
now instructing city lawyers to seek a legal injunction to end the
strike. He deemed the strike "illegal on two grounds," saying that it
was called over issues that teachers are not legally permitted to
strike about and that it endangers the health and safety of children.

"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as
pawns in an internal dispute within a union," Mr. Emanuel said in a
statement. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice
that is wrong for our children. Every day our kids are kept out of
school is one more day we fail in our mission: to ensure that every
child in every community has an education that matches their

Beyond Chicago, the notion that the strike would not, as expected,
end immediately could also prove troublesome for President Obama, who
has so far stayed neutral in the fight between his former chief of
staff and labor, though both are expected to play a crucial role in
fund-raising and voter turnout efforts nationwide.

For some parents, the continuing crisis - and the news late Sunday
that it would go on - created a crushing problem: How to juggle a
second week with alternative child care. "We're spending half of our
life trying to figure out what to do with the kids this week," Roger
Wilen, a lawyer and parent of three, said on Sunday evening. "This is

Last week Mr. Wilen and his wife had tested nearly every option for
their children - finding a baby sitter, working from home, using an
alternative school program, even taking the children to work - and
were, by this weekend, feeling tested themselves. "We need them in
school," he said.

As they had a week ago when the strike began, schools officials said
Sunday that they would open 147 schools with nonunion workers as a
contingency plan for children with nowhere else to go. Attendance at
those alternative programs had been low in recent days, as parents
said they felt uncertain about sending their children to schools they
did not know, and supervisors they had not met.

Sunday's developments came as a setback to the union's bargaining
team, which felt it had secured an agreement its delegates might
accept, even if it did not quell every concern voiced at protests
across the city over the last week.

"There's all kinds of stuff that they're concerned about," said Karen
Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union who had played a
key role in negotiating the tentative deal, as she emerged from the
meeting with delegates. "This is the deal we got."

The delegates agreed to meet again on Tuesday, Ms. Lewis said, adding
that the earliest that schools can open will be Wednesday.
Eventually, some 26,000 union members will need to vote on whether to
ratify the new contract, but the delegates had been expected to end
the strike well before a vote could be completed.

It is unclear whether the tentative agreement merely needs study by
union delegates and members, or whether its terms are in more serious
jeopardy. All along, the contract fight here has focused on an wide
array of issues, including teacher evaluations, job security, pay,
benefits and more.

Earlier, negotiators for the schools and for the union had seemed
satisfied with the tentative deal they had hashed out. Both sides
were claiming victory about its contents.

Leaders from the school system said the most important provisions for
changes to the schools - shifts pressed most notably by Mayor Emanuel
- lived on in the latest proposal: students here would attend school
for more hours and more days a year than before; principals would
decide which teachers were hired; and teachers would be evaluated, in
part, based on student test scores.

But Ms. Lewis and the union negotiators said their strongest wishes
were intact in the proposal they brought to delegates on Sunday.
Among their claimed victories: Teacher raises were to be maintained
for those who seek additional education and for those with a certain
experience level; the schools would agree to hire additional teachers
to handle longer school days; and most experienced teachers could not
be fired for the first year of the new evaluation system, which would
be something of a test-run.

"We believe this is a good contract; however, no contract will solve
all of the inequities in our district," Ms. Lewis said, in a release
issued on Saturday night.

The proposed contract - a three-year arrangement with an option for a
fourth - would have given an average teacher a more than 17 percent
raise if it ran all four years, more than had been offered a week
ago, the school system said. It was uncertain how the schools were
going to pay for raises, which were predicted to cost in the "high
$300 million" range at a time when the system has a significant
budget deficit, estimated at $1 billion next year. Chicago Public
Schools officials say an average teacher here makes $76,000 a year,
though union officials have said the figure is lower.

On Sunday, as David Stieber, a delegate, left the meeting, he said he
wanted more time to examine the contract in all its detail. He said
he also wanted other teachers at his school on the city's South Side
to have a chance to look, and see what they thought.

Of the decision to continue the strike, he said, "We're showing you
an example of true democracy, and that means talking to everybody -
even if that takes a little extra time."
A version of this article appeared in print on September 17, 2012, on
page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Chicago Teachers
Extend Strike to Review Deal.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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