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Chicago teachers extend strike, mayor seeks injunction

Discussion in 'International Forum' started by kakamukubwa, Sep 17, 2012.

  1. k

    kakamukubwa JF-Expert Member

    Sep 17, 2012
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    CHICAGO (Reuters) - The
    confrontation between
    Chicago teachers and Mayor
    Rahm Emanuel escalated on
    Sunday when their union
    extended a strike and the mayor said he would go to
    court to block the walkout,
    risking more friction within
    President Barack Obama's
    political coalition as the
    November 6 election nears. There will be no classes in
    Chicago public schools for a
    sixth day on Monday, and
    probably a seventh on
    Tuesday, affecting 350,000
    kindergarten, elementary and high school students. The showdown left in doubt a
    deal on wages, benefits and
    education reforms for 29,000
    unionized teachers that
    negotiators had hoped would
    end the biggest labor dispute in the United States in a year. It also could widen a rift
    within the Democratic Party
    between education reformers
    such as Obama's former top
    White House aide Emanuel,
    and organized labor which the Democrats need to get out the
    vote in the election. Chicago union President Karen
    Lewis said some 800 union
    delegates met on Sunday and
    decided to consult with rank-
    and-file members before
    voting whether to end the walkout. "There's no trust (of the school
    district and mayor)," Lewis
    said. "So you have a
    population of people who are
    frightened of never being able
    to work for no fault of their own." Union delegates will
    reconvene on Tuesday to
    discuss the feedback from
    rank-and-file members, Lewis
    said. Parents should plan for
    their children to be out of school until at least
    Wednesday, she said. No formal vote of delegates
    was taken, but they were
    asked to stand up so that the
    union leadership could get a
    sense of how many were for
    and against ending the strike, delegates said. "A clear majority wanted to
    stay out. That's why we are
    staying out," Lewis told a
    news conference after a
    three-hour meeting of the
    delegates. MAYOR CALLS STRIKE ILLEGAL Emanuel called the strike
    "illegal" and said he would go
    to court to seek an injunction
    to block the labor action. "I will not stand by while the
    children of Chicago are played
    as pawns in an internal
    dispute within a union,"
    Emanuel said, adding that the
    union walked out over issues that are not subject to a strike
    under Illinois state law. Teachers revolted last week
    against sweeping education
    reforms sought by Emanuel,
    especially evaluating teachers
    based on the standardized test
    scores of their students. They also fear a wave of
    neighborhood school closings
    that could result in mass
    teacher layoffs. They want a
    guarantee that laid-off
    teachers will be recalled for other jobs in the district. "They're still not happy with
    the evaluations. They're not
    happy with the recall
    (provision)," Lewis said of
    delegates. Before the meeting of
    delegates on Sunday, Lewis
    had called the agreement a
    "good contract." But after the
    decision to extend the strike
    she backtracked, saying: "This is not a good deal. This is the
    deal we got." Emanuel's chief negotiator,
    School Board President David
    Vitale, said the union should
    allow children to go back to
    school while the two sides
    complete the process. "We are extremely
    disappointed that after 10
    months of discussion reaching
    an honest and fair
    compromise that (the union)
    decided to continue their strike of choice and keep our
    children out of the classroom,"
    Vitale said. During the first week of the
    strike, opinion polls showed
    parents and Chicago voters
    backing the union, with some
    parents and students joining
    boisterous rallies. A key question is who the public will
    support now that the strike is
    dragging on. Former Chicago city council
    member Dick Simpson said
    Emanuel may have made a
    mistake by going to court to
    block the strike. "If I were advising the mayor,
    I would have advised him to
    be patient for a couple of
    days," said Simpson, a political
    science professor at the
    University of Illinois at Chicago. By waiting, Emanuel
    could have put the onus on the
    teachers if they rejected the
    contract later this week,
    Simpson said. Both sides appeared to win
    some concessions, according
    to details of the tentative
    agreement released by the
    parties. Emanuel compromised on the
    design of the first update of
    the evaluation system for
    Chicago teachers in 40 years.
    He agreed to phase in the new
    plan over several years and reduced the weighting of
    standardized test results in
    reviewing teachers. Teachers won some job-
    security protections and
    prevented the introduction of
    merit pay in their contract. NATIONAL DEBATE The Chicago strike has shone a
    bright light on a fierce
    national debate over how to
    reform failing inner-city
    schools. The union believes
    that more money and resources should be given to
    neighborhood public schools to
    help them improve. Emanuel and a legion of
    financiers and philanthropists
    believe that failing schools
    should be closed and reopened
    with new staff to give the
    students the best chance of improving. In Chicago, more than 80
    neighborhood schools have
    been closed in the last decade
    as the enrollment has declined
    by about 20 percent. The
    Chicago Tribune reported last week that another 120 of
    about 600 city public schools
    could be closed. At the same time, 96 so-called
    charter schools have been
    opened. Charters are publicly
    funded but non-union and not
    subject to some public school
    rules and regulations. Their record of improving student
    academic performance is
    mixed. Lewis and the union argue
    that charters are undermining
    public education. The agreement calls for a 3
    percent pay raise for teachers
    this year and 2 percent in each
    of the next two years. If the
    agreement is extended for an
    optional fourth year, teachers get a 3 percent increase.

    Theincreases will result in anaverage 17.6 increase over
    four years, the district said.
    Chicago union teachers make an average of about $76,000 annually. The deal could worsen the Chicago Public Schools financial crisis. Emanuel said the contract will cost $295 million over four years, or $74 million per year. Debt rating agencies had
    previously warned that the
    new agreement with teachers it could bust the school district
    budget and lead to a
    downgrade of its credit rating. (Additional reporting by Peter Bohan;

    Writing by Greg McCune; Editing by Eric Beech
    and Eric Walsh)