My mother is a retired Chicago public school teacher and a
former union delegate, she went on strike 10 times in her teaching career from
1965 to 2000 and I spoke with her over the weekend about the current labor
issues with the Chicago public school system.
She says she knows how tough it is for the teachers both
financially and the verbal beating they will take in the media.
She told me the five year contract that has been offered for the current teachers is
not good (in her eyes), and it consists of a 2% raise the first year, no raise the second year and after that
merit based raises that are decided on the performance of the students standardized test
Now those of us in the private sector have often gone through
such financial situations and we had no contract to fall back on or a way to
walk out, unless we quit.
I understand the teachers have issues with this and many
classroom related problems but I think with the current economy they will get even
less sympathy than the last strike in 1987.
I remember that strike well for I was in 6th grade in a
CPS school (Paul Revere), and we went 21 days without school, yes a whole month. My mother home schooled me through the
strike. But we truly never made up that lost time and the teachers never got back that lost pay.
That strike led to the creation of Local School Councils and
not long after that, strikes were not allowed, thus the labor peace that has
been in place for 25 years.
The vote that is being taken now is for the authorization to
strike (not the actual strike vote), and it needs to be 75% unlike the simply majority that it was
I know that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has
the rank and file to keep in mind but many in the media (as well as parents), are wondering about the school children involved.
I remember with past strikes that this becomes a union
versus board of education fight. I remember several strikes in the 1980’s (1983 was significant
and of course 1987), and it never seemed to the children’s benefit once
these labor strife’s were over.
Trust me, I know teachers need a good living wage and
good classroom conditions to be productive, not to mention that’s conducive to a
great learning environment for the students.
And with the longer class day and every growing pressures
for higher test results as well as many of the schools in violent areas with
problematic children and not a lot of parental support , it’s not an easy profession.
But then these labor woes are played out in the media, the
teachers usually look like the bad guys.
I just hope both sides keep in mind it’s the 400,000
students that are at the core of this because 25 years ago, I was one of those kids
and they have the most lose in this battle.