Memories of CPS Strikes Past

Memories of CPS Strikes Past

I remember in the 80’s there were strikes or threats of strikes every year or two. The only lengthy  strikes were in 1983 and 1987, but there were some one or two day strikes as well, I believe in maybe 1985.

But we were strike weary by then. Dealing with the likes of CPS board president Ruth Love and the late Teachers union president Jacqueline Vaughn, there was not labor peace in those days.

I know about these strikes from both a student and from what my mother went through. She was a union delegate prior to my birth and though now retired she still has union ties and communicates with them.

Just last week she had words of caution as this strike got close. I know firsthand there is nothing glamorous about a work stoppage.

In the past, the deal that was agreed on was usually not a whole lot better than the initial deal on the table and it seemed that younger teachers often were sacrificed to pay for the benefits and or raises that were agreed on with the post strike deal.

But for us kids, the stability we lost, days that never got returned, those ever important early days of the school year to get into a routine and get the brain learning were just stolen.

I can remember a strike or two like this one where we went to school for a hot minute then out on the street.

And it was after that last strike in 1987 that local school councils were born and other significant changes came with it.

I was out of CPS schools the very next year but I was fortunate, I had the chance to leave my inner city public school and attend a suburban parochial school and the difference was night and day.

The teachers are right it’s not just about the money, I remember some tough classroom conditions in the 80’s and my mother retired early because the environment in her school was just too much for her.

I won the school science fair in 1987 & 1988 and I remember going to the district science fair at Deneen Elementary and Dixon Elementary and the conditions there, though better than my home school were not great. And Dixon was the district headquarters at the time. I also went to an academic Olympic event at Ruggles school in Chatham, now since it was in Chatham, it was much better.

But yeah this strike is about about the money too, don’t get fooled. Of course to those of us in the private sector, it seems greedy to ask for what the teachers are asking when a lot of us get 2% raises yearly (or sometimes every other year with no raise in between), and consider ourselves lucky to have gainful employment.

But you have to remember in a union shop it’s a little different. Yes this is the clashing of our new financial world and the old union way of doing things. Most of us in the largely non union workforce do more with less and encounter situations no union worker would stand for.

And most of us have been affected directly by layoffs, pay cuts and a tough work environment for over a decade.

I was working for a major airline 11 years ago when 9/11 happened and the changes in the offices, gates, hangars and tarmacs were seismic. There was no hidden agenda, the workforce was downsized, the organization changed and work rules were different whether you were card carrying member of one of the unions or not.

Organized labor has had to change in this generation and many of us have not been a member of any local. We have benefitted from the basic rules that organized labor fought for long ago (5 day work week, 8 hour work day etc), but our daily operation has not consisted of having anyone stand between us and management.

The current economy and unemployment situation doesn’t help the teachers in their labor strife. I can remember in strikes back in the day, teachers were often portrayed as greedy and people in other lines of work didn’t see why teachers needed to walk a picket line when plenty of other workers dealt with similar issues everyday and never stopped showing up for work and producing.

In the end though the strike shows a union will stand up for its members, there is no real benefit for anyone involved.

Especially the CPS students.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul grad (LA&S '99), and know and love Chicago. Writing is my passion, what I write is what I feel and there is no half steppin' with my work. I simply want to share my thoughts, experiences and opinions. And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say.

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