Chicago teachers strike


So many interesting things have been written about the strike that I wanted to do a third roundup (parts one, two):

* This 2010 piece from Ramsin Canon is a good addition because it explains an important aspect of why the strike came about now:

The Chicago Teachers Union is in the middle of a bruising factional fight as union elections approach in May. Several caucuses are vying for leadership by running slates to unseat the current ruling caucus, the United Progressive Caucus (UPC) and CTU President Marilyn Stewart. The gentlest of the criticisms against the UPC are that they are inept, unable to effectively advocate for teachers and students; the more stinging criticisms allege outright accommodation by union leadership of the Board of Education (and, by proxy, Mayor Daley)…. Teacher activism is as high as it has been in years, and that activism is a direct result of the privatization policies of Renaissance 2010 and the inability of the CTU–under different administrations–to halt those policies.

I've seen some folks react to the stark difference between Daley and Emanuel—school-labor peace in the former's reign, a strike on the first contract of the latter's brief tenure. But neither the mayor nor the union works in a vacuum. Emanuel and Karen Lewis are both new to their positions of power in the city, and they're both addressing a lot of long-simmering issues on top of the reforms that followed in the wake of SB7. It's not just Emanuel having to address issues left with the retirement of Richard Daley; Lewis is coping with her predecessors' legacy.

* Speaking of legacies, a thoughtful post by Michael Miner describes the physical residue of reform:

I was visiting the first-grade classroom of one of these teachers a few years ago, and she pointed to various boxes and files lying on the floor in a heap near her desk. Every year, she explained, the central office came up with a new theory about collecting never-before-collected data that would reveal everything and transform education. So all year long she'd dutifully fill out all the forms that had to be filled out, knowing full well that by the end of the year the central office would have lost interest.

The pace of reform has sped up in the past few years: after Duncan, Ron Huberman's brief term; Mazany's temp job undoing what Huberman did; now Jean-Claude Brizard.

* Some stuff I've written about previously: School-Day Length and the Teachers Union; the length of a Chicago teacher's school day; 50 years of Chicago teacher salaries; the ongoing mess of the teachers' pension system.

* Carol Felsenthal on the national political implications:

Obama, who did not respond to Romney and made no public statement on the standoff, desperately needs a fired-up union membership to turn out for him and to drag others to the polls. But his administration’s support for charter schools (staffed by nonunion faculties) as well as his advocating for merit pay—salary levels and tenure decisions set by analyzing scores of frequently administered standardized tests—do not make a foundation for adoration.

* Chris Hedges (co-author of the compelling new Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt) on the national implications for labor:

[T]he teachers' strike in Chicago is arguably one of the most important labor actions in probably decades. If it does not prevail, you can be certain that the template for the attack on the union will be carried out across the country against other teachers' unions and against the last redoubt of union activity, which is in the public sector, of course—firemen and police.

* Mike Konczal talks with two local journalists covering the strike, Yana Kunichoff and Micah Uetricht:

There are several layers to why this strike is happening. The shallowest, headline news one is because the Chicago Teachers' Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were not able to agree to a contract. A deeper reason is because this is one of the first times that an education public sector union has resisted and pushed back against the privatization and changes that have been happening in the education sector.

WBEZ's Linda Lutton and Chicagoist's aaroncynic also got teacher-on-the-street answers. What the union is fighting for is not always what all the teachers are fighting for, who are not necessarily fighting for the same things themselves.


Photograph: Chicago Tribune