"What do the mayor and Brizard expect the teachers to do? Shut up and do what they’re told to do? You got it." -- Walter Jacobson, CBS News Chicago
CTU members are voting before the summer break, not to strike, but to give their union the authority to strike, just in case the mayor continues to play hardball and not to budge from his current puny, insulting 2% pay increase offer. They are voting now to give teachers a voice in deciding the proper response to Rahm's war on teachers and on unions in general. They are voting now even though my friend Alonzo, down at the gym, thinks "teachers make way too much money" and even though billionaire heiress Robin Steans is "disappointed" in them.
The main reason teachers are voting early is because the law, SB7, which Steans, her wealthy friends at the Civic Committee, and the union-busting group, Stand For Children, pushed through the legislature last year, requires the union to get a 75% vote before calling a strike. That's 75% of ALL its members, many of whom aren't around during late summer months. This leaves the union no choice but to poll its membership now, get a YES vote, and hope that a strike isn't necessary come the fall.
BTW, while as state public employees, teachers' collective bargaining rights and terms are governed by state, rather than federal, law. there is no law requiring the all-powerful Civic Committee to get a 75% yes vote from its members before launching its war on public space and public decision making. And since the legislature seems to vote exactly the way Boss Madigan tells them to vote and the Chicago City Council votes exactly the way Boss Rahm tells them to vote, this makes the CTU possibly the last bastion of real democratic decision-making left in Chicago. But I digress.
More opinions: Chicago's two so-called newspapers are warning teachers not to vote YES. The Sun-Times (wholly owned by a group of Rahm's patrons) claims that, "Chicago Teachers Union president has walked her members to the edge of the cliff." CPS is sending letters home to parents trying to panic them about an impending strike. The union has responded with a letter of its own.
Then there's the steady diet of radio ads now running on WBBM-AM, WGN, WGCI, WVON and several other stations — urging parents to tell their kids' teachers not to strike.
Crain's reporter Greg Hinz asks:
Who's paying the cost of the ad — reportedly north of $100,000? All that the sponsoring Education Reform Now will say is that a collection of "concerned" business types here and in New York [DFER--mk] came up with the dough. But among those who serve on the group's board are Emanuel ally Juan Rangel from the United Neighborhood Organization and Chicago charter-school funder Phyllis Lockett. And among those handling media for the group is John Kupper, whose AKPD Media worked for Mr. Emanuel's election campaign. The last thing Chicago needs is a shadowy big-bucks education-reform super PAC with ties to City Hall. To some degree, the union needs to fight that fire with its own.Interestingly, Hinz, whose column reflects the thinking of a wing of the city's big business sector and who sounds a lot like my friend Alonzo when it comes to teacher pay, had this to say in his latest post:
If I were a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, I would vote for that strike authorization today. Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn't given me much choice... Mr. Emanuel's Board of Education already has grabbed back a 4 percent pay hike that the union negotiated in better times. The board is imposing a longer school day and year, and makes it pretty clear in negotiations that it has a mid-term goal to shift from across-the-board raises to a form of merit pay.
So while Rahm's over-staffed and expensive spin department at CPS continues to spin and all the pontificators continue to pontificate, the union will do what it has to do for its 20,000 members whose backs are to the wall. It will let their voices be heard by taking a vote. Right on, CTU.