Rahm Emanuel deems Chicago teachers strike “illegal”
The Chicago Teachers Union extended its strike into a second week on Sunday, after significant divisions emerged among union delegates over a deal that only a day before had been described by the union’s leader as “a good contract”.
The announcement came after nearly 800 union representatives, the House of Delegates, convened for several hours to decide whether to end a strike that has drawn national attention in the debate over teacher evaluations, job security and the length of a school day.
The decision forced 350,000 students in the nation’s third-largest school system to begin another week without classes and with no strong indication of when they might resume.
Many Chicagoans had assumed school would start again on Monday, after union leaders and city officials reached the outlines of a deal on Friday, ending what had been days of long and sometimes contentious talks.
But inside the closed-door meeting of the union’s House of Delegates on Sunday, opinion was split. Some delegates wanted to accept the deal and return to school immediately, while others said they needed time to digest its details, which they had not known until Sunday’s meeting. Still others objected to the new terms of the contract entirely, suggesting that a resolution of this entire chapter may yet be far from reach.
“I think everybody wants to be back in the classroom, but I think everyone is nervous about a bad contract,” Kevin Hough, one of the delegates, said as he left the meeting on this city’s South Side, where delegates had decided in a “standing vote” to continue their strike. A clear majority, those present said, wanted to wait. “In the end I think it’s wise for members to have a day to review the contract,” Mr. Hough said.
The decision infuriated school system officials, who had advised parents on Friday to be ready to return their children to school on Monday, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has suggested since the teachers began striking a week ago that they ought to return to the classroom even as negotiators finished the contract. Mr. Emanuel said he was now instructing city lawyers to seek a legal injunction to end the strike. He deemed the strike “illegal on two grounds,” saying that it was called over issues that teachers are not legally permitted to strike about and that it endangers the health and safety of children.
“I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union,” Mr. Emanuel said in a statement. “This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children. Every day our kids are kept out of school is one more day we fail in our mission: to ensure that every child in every community has an education that matches their potential”.
Beyond Chicago, the notion that the strike would not, as expected, end immediately could also prove troublesome for President Obama, who has so far stayed neutral in the fight between his former chief of staff and labor, though both are expected to play a crucial role in fund-raising and voter turnout efforts nationwide.
Source:The New York Times