Chicago Public School Teachers Strike
"Rahm says cut back, we say fight back," picketers chanted outside school headquarters.
It is the first teacher's strike the city has seen in 25 years. The district offered teachers a 16 percent pay raise over four years and other benefits but teachers said they are worried about the rising costs of health care, their performance evaluation system and job security.
‘‘This is not a strike I wanted,’’ Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Sunday night. ‘‘It was a strike of choice ... it’s unnecessary, it’s avoidable and it’s wrong.’’
Chicago Public Schools will open 144 schools until 12:30 as part of their contingency plan. Parents, however, have been urged to find other accomodations for their children and only to bring them to school if absolutely necessary. As the third largest school district in the nation, the strike will affect more than 400,000 children and involve 26,000 teachers.
The strike promises to be as damaging to the image of unions as it is to the mayor's. From the Boston Globe:
Emanuel and the union officials have much at stake. Unions and collective bargaining by public employees have recently come under criticism in many parts of the country, and all sides are closely monitoring who might emerge with the upper hand in the Chicago dispute.
The timing also may be inopportune for Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff whose city administration is wrestling with a spike in murders and shootings in some city neighborhoods and who just agreed to take a larger role in fundraising for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
The anouncement of the strike left many parents wondering what effect the lost school time would have on their children.
"They're going to lose learning time," said Beatriz Fierro, mother of a fifth-grader on the city's Southwest Side. "And if the whole afternoon they're going to be free, it's bad. Of course you're worried."
While several high-profile strikes have made headlines in recent years, union membership and the frequency of labor walk-outs have decreased, leading some to lament the return of "a pre-New Deal era of workplace governance." From CNN:
The numbers are stark. During the 1970s, an average of 289 major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers occurred annually in the United States. By the 1990s, that had fallen to about 35 per year. And in 2009, there were no more than five.
The decline in strikes cannot be explained solely by declining union membership. According to a study by sociologist Jake Rosenfeld, unionization among private-sector full-time employees fell by 40% between 1984 and 2002. But the drop in total strike frequency was even greater, falling by more than two-thirds.