No matter a person’s opinion regarding the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 going on strike for a better contract, one thing is clear: Chicago cannot afford to have labor disputes in public schools arise every three or four years, as the case has been the last seven years.
Both unions have members working in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The CTU went on strike for seven days in 2012, then held a “day of action,” similar to a strike, in April 2016. In October 2016, a strike was narrowly avoided thanks to a late-night contract agreement.
CTU and SEIU Local 73 members deserve fair wages and healthy working conditions. And, students deserve quality learning environments.
Families deserve to know that school will be in session. Parents and guardians shouldn’t need to wait around wondering if they’ll need to get their kids ready for school the next day.
Some CPS sports teams had to forfeit games—including postseason matches—due to the strike. Senior student-athletes will see their careers ended not by their opponents, but by adults who aren’t on the field.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and members of the Chicago Board of Education don’t have an easy job. With about 360,000 students and 644 schools, CPS is the third-largest school district in the country. Managing it requires a massive crunching of numbers, and caring for students in 77 neighborhoods with various backgrounds and ethnicities is a monumental task.
The CTU, the third-largest teachers union in the country, has 25,000 members, including teachers and support personnel, and keeping them happy takes effort.
At the least, a new contract must provide a framework for future deals. Speed bumps will always pop up that require negotiations to become complicated, but Chicago can’t keep enduring this. An eighth-grader has now undergone three work stoppages since first grade.
The CTU went 25 years without a strike before 2012, and the 1987 strike lasted 19 days, the longest Chicago teachers strike.
Union members and Lightfoot have gone back and forth about putting certain terms of the contract “in writing.”
Both sides should make one promise to Chicago residents: Don’t let the threat of a strike happen again three or four years from now.