The strike could be on, reports FOX Chicago. Approximately 90 percent of the teachers that make up the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) approved the strike. The law was changed recently to up the percentage of teachers required to strike - from 50 percent to 75 percent.
The law, likely intended by Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to reduce the likelihood of a strike in the midst of plans to reform the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), seems to have failed at its purpose.
According to FOX, the vote took three days, but ended up with a surprisingly high number of teachers in favor of the strike: 91.55 percent of CTU members voted and 89.73 percent voted to strike, setting up the following deadlines for the upcoming summer:
- July 16: An arbitrator is expected to release a compromise proposal. Both sides have 15 days to review the proposal and accept or reject it.
- August 17: The earliest date that teachers are allowed to strike.
- August 31: The latest date that teachers are allowed to strike.
The teachers' main issue, according to FOX, is a proposed raise. They want a 30 percent pay increase, while CPS is only offering 2 percent. The Chicago Tribune also cites such issues as the longer school day and school year that Emanuel pushed for.
We previously discussed two other issues to be resolved: the merit-pay grant that had to be returned to the Department of Education and accusations about larger class sizes and lower student achievement levels.
According to Emanuel, the reforms are working. CPS projects a 60 percent high school graduation rate, which would be the highest since 1999.
CTU President Karen Lewis described the 90 percent strike vote as an indictment of teachers' relationship with Emanuel. The mayor, on the other hand, took a more conciliatory approach, and classified the strike authorization as part of the negotiating process.
One does wonder if such an early strike vote might result in an argument that CTU did not negotiate in good faith. Many on the district side were surprised that the vote came so early, as the negotiations are still in progress and the neutral arbitrator hasn't yet made a proposal.
The National Labor Relations Act requires that both sides negotiate in good faith. It is also the same law that originally authorized unions, collective bargaining, and the National Labor Relations Board, which holds hearings on unfair labor practices. Should this fight get ugly, expect it to move from arbitration to the NLRB.
By planning on striking this early, the union has extra leverage in negotiations. However, if the teachers actually strike, it could also lead to arguments that they never intended to come to a deal during the summer.
- Find a Chicago Employment Attorney (FindLaw)
- Collective Bargaining (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- Teachers' Rights and Teacher Unions (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Chicago Teachers May Strike: They Only Get One Pay Raise (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)