350,000 Students Are Idled by Strike of 26,000 Teachers

By Harry Kelber | The American Labor Reform Movement | September 13, 2012

BULLETIN: Chicago Teachers Strike to go into its Fifth Day. No classes on Friday.

After three days of negotiating, the union and the Chicago Board of Education showed no hint of an imminent settlement.

Union officials continued to play down the chances of a quick resolution of the dispute, which centers on the district’s proposed new teacher evaluation process and a policy of rehiring teachers that have been laid off.

As the teachers walk the picket lines. they have been joined by parents who are scrambling to find a place for children to pass the time or hire baby sitters. Mothers and fathers — some with their kids in tow–are marching with the teachers. Other parents are honking their encouragement from cars or planting yard signs that announce their support of English and Spanish.

In a telephone poll Monday by the Chicago Sun-Times, nearly half of the respondents said they supported the strike, with 39 percent who oppose it. In many polls, the public resents strikes because they disrupt their daily lives.

But both sides are aware that public support can turn into anger if the strike lasts many days, weeks or longer. The union has adopted a policy of publicizing what they believe is wrong with the Chicago education system. This has enabled the union to explain its negotiating stance on a number of issues.

The union does not accept Mayor Emanuel’s proposal to get the children back to class and then discuss the strike issues. Normally, this would be a difficult suggestion for the union to oppose. The union points out that only six items have been agreed to, out of about 40 or more, and it has refused to halt the negotiations.

Mayor Emanuel Can’t Bully Teachers’ Union Leader Karen Lewis, 59, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, has emerged as one of the strongest labor leaders in the country. She has been described as "biting, pushy, witty and unwavering." a description that fits Mayor Rahm Emanuel when he was chief of staff in the Obama administration.

Lewis has used words like "bully" and "liar" publicly to describe the Mayor. "The only way to beat a bully is to stand up to a bully," she shouted at a huge rally of teachers and their supporters. That kind of talk is not of ten used by labor leaders, even at strike rallies.

The Mayor has not visited the negotiations. He gets his information through his aides, who know the nature of the reforms he wishes to impose.

With two such strong adversaries on opposite sides of the strike, the conflict can emerge as a battle of personalities rather than issues

The critical question is what compromises must each side make to end the strike as quickly as possible.

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