CPS teachers cry foul on such variety of issues, public can’t make sense of it

Teachers from Chicago Public Schools hit the streets to strike Monday. It is the first time they have gone on strike in 25 years, and union leaders are butting heads with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over a number of issues.

In fact, they are crying foul on such a variety of issues that many are saying the general public doesn’t fully understand why they are on strike.

After researching the issue at length, trying to understand its purpose myself, I came across several articles, each highlighting different issues at stake. For example, the progressive website “Occupied Chicago Tribune”:http://occupiedchicagotribune.org/2012/09/four-reasons-chicagos-teachers-are-on-strike/ listed improving education, staffing and compensation as the main issues. The “Chicago Tribune”:http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-teacher-strike-expected-to-go-into-2nd-day-20120910,0,4057997.story, on the other hand, listed low salaries, job security and weakening teacher evaluations as the reason for the teachers’ strike. “CNN “:http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/10/what-are-key-issues-in-chicago-public-school-strike/echoed the Tribune’s sentiments.

Whether you agree or disagree with the teachers union exercising its right to strike, this is just bad communication on the teachers’ part.

Success of strikes relies on the public’s collective understanding of its purpose. The court of public opinion, much like a court of law, is one in which strong evidence must be paired with logical, pinpointed arguments. Without these, the jury (in this case the public) is unlikely to side with such a weak argument.

To keep the metaphor going, the teachers union is similar to the prosecutor in this case. By fighting for so many different issues, they are basically charging the “defendant” with a laundry list of unrelated crimes. Fighting for this array of issues turns what should be the union’s loud but united voice into a loud noise that the public will easily tune out.

This lack of focus will be their downfall.

On top of that, public opinion of unions in general is on a steady decline. According to a June 2011 Pew Research poll, 45 percent of respondents had a favorable view of unions. This number is down from 58 percent in 2007.

Unions fighting for anything is an uphill battle during this day and age. An unclear message makes this hill even steeper.

Although the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement is not a union-organized movement, it possesses many of the same issues that will likely plague the strike by CPS teachers. The movement started with much of the country behind it but is now a footnote on what will become the pages of history books covering present times.

By lacking focus or any concrete demands for what to change and how, the Occupy protestors were easily painted as lazy Americans who want success handed to them. The inability to find its voice and strike a chord in the hearts of everyday Americans (whose opinion does matter), the Occupy movement lost legitimacy.

Teaching is a profession that I respect above all others. It is one of the toughest jobs around. It is hard work for low pay and is sometimes thankless. It’s remarkable that many teachers dedicate their lives to advancing students into a bright future.

It is these beliefs that lead me to believe that there is merit behind this strike, but I am not exactly sure what that is just yet.

To win this battle, CPS teachers must better organize, engage and convince the public that what they are doing is legitimate. They must narrow in on issues most important to them. Finally, they must walk but never cross the fine line between seeking fairness and pushing greed.

Any movement that displaces 350,000 Chicago children from the classroom must have this merit.

_John is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]_