Teachers on strike in Chicago entered the second week of their strike, but they have chosen to accept a new labor deal that will put both teachers and students back in the classroom. The new agreement avoids what could have become a prolonged work stoppage that pitted unionized teachers against parents and taxpayers. Teacher unions will also avoid the prospect of facing the legal action threatened by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. A judge could have forced teachers to end their walkout and return to work under their previous terms of employment.
NBC News reports that the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates decided to end the strike that has sent hundreds of thousands of children into city streets while frustrated parents continued to work.
The vote to end the strike was almost unanimous, but it does not guarantee that teachers will accept the new contract. Unionized teachers will vote on the contract proposal separately in the coming days.
Under the new deal, teachers will receive lucrative pay increases over the next three years. They will also receive automatic cost-of-living increases and bonuses for tenure. Teacher evaluations, a major cause of the strike, will remain in limbo, so teachers will not have to worry about performing well in the classroom.
Other concessions made by the city to the teachers union include health benefits and job security assurances.
Chicago lawyers filed an action in court to force teachers back to work because the stated reasons for the strike were not legally permitted. Protests over teacher recalls and evaluations of teachers are excluded by Illinois law as reasons for work stoppages. In fact, the Illinois Educational Labor Act allows strikes only if based on matters that involve pay and benefits.
During the strike, media reports have highlighted the failure of teachers in Chicago to provide a basic education for students. An account published by Town Hall revealed that almost 80 percent of 8th grade students in Chicago cannot read. Critics have cited such statistics as evidence that Chicago teachers do not deserve their already-record-setting pay and benefits packages. In the private sector, employers routinely fire workers who do not perform. Rather than firing failing teachers, however, Chicago has chosen to reward them by conceding to union demands.
As the teacher strike entered its second week, parents became more vocal because they had no way to look after their children during working hours. This spurred debate on whether government schools should be used for education or for daycare.