Poor working conditions in CPS system lead to labor strife

When the Occupy movement made its way through to every corner of the United States, it picked up every cause rioting against social and economic inequality — or nuisance — from scorning the 1 percent, to calling out Corporate America for undermining democracy, to general “I-hate-my-boss” moments. It became an umbrella for every cause anyone wanted to include.

But the Chicago Teachers Union strike is not that. It’s not a collective of a million groups trying to make a pitch of their own just because it seems like the perfect opportunity. As a matter of fact, it’s about a group of 26,000 teachers and the Chicago Board of Education coming to some agreement about their contract.

This strike is the quintessential case of labor union-government strife. All of “their objectives”:http://www.ctunet.com/blog/excerpt/Contract_Bargaining_Update_8_22_2012.pdf during the ongoing negotiations align with what you can expect from a union that is dealing with a tightening city budget and demand for higher quality. To name a few: With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s push to increase working hours and the number of schools days, teachers are looking for compensation — namely, a 20 percent salary increase; CTU members want laid-off teachers to be considered prior to Chicago Public Schools selecting from a new pool of applicants; Teachers seek to lower the weight of the students’ test scores in evaluating their job performance.

The tensions surrounding the poor quality of a Chicago public education in the 25 years since the last CTU strike have bred a toxic environment for discussing the framework of the Chicago Public School system. As the union’s needs went unmet, union laborers increasingly warned of impending strikes, and since the city’s education budget tightened from $6.2 billion in FY 2009 to $5.1 billion in FY 2012, the announcement of this strike came as no surprise.

“From the get-go, the union seemed intent on striking. Sunday happened to be the trigger day,” said a Chicago Sun-Times “editorial”:http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/15049956-474/editorial-teacher-unions-unwise-strike-of-choice.html.

The union, prepared to strike, knew exactly what it wanted to win from it.

An entirely other matter is the reasonability of their objectives. But that’s exactly what the discussions between the board and the union are all about. It may be easy to pick out a few news articles and feel like there is no direction to these discussions or that an agreement cannot be reached because the union has too many objectives.

But the fact of the matter is that the Chicago education system has been battered for decades, seeing dwindling graduation rates and lower percentages of students being college-ready. It’s a nuanced situation. We cannot expect the board and union to have only a single point to resolve to quell our worries about failing students, tired teachers and a lack of funds.

_Nora is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]_