Chicago Teachers Vote to Strike

Back in Chicago this past weekend for a familial gathering and a White Sox game (a-hem, go Cubs), I heard on the radio that the Chicago Teachers’ Union was voting this week to authorize a strike. The radio announcers didn’t seem too convinced that the vote would actually pass, because new rules require a 75% vote (which is ridiculously high).

But they did it.

According to this post by Diane Ravitch, union members not only voted in favor of the strike, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of it. Ravitch writes:

Nearly 90% of the members of CTU voted to authorize a strike to protest Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s policies of more work for no more pay, privatization of public education, and increased class sizes. To be exact, 89,73% of the CTU voted to authorize a strike, 1.82% voted “no,” and 91.55% of members cast a vote.

After all the fights teachers’ unions have lost lately, this is a big win.

I have confused and mixed feelings about teachers’ unions. On the one hand, I lost a job I absolutely loved because of the seniority rules held in place by most teachers’ unions. That was really painful and really frustrating. However, unions protect teachers from the very things that are being upheld as positive — but aren’t — in today’s standardization age. Unions protect teachers, for example, from being laid off because their students’ test scores go down one year. They require due process for a teacher, and protection against wrongful termination. Unions bargain for fair pay and fair benefits. Things professionals deserve. Things that aren’t denied to auto workers or construction workers. Why would we deny teachers, who go through years of schooling (and many of them have graduate degrees), these same professional privileges?

As teachers’ professional judgment and knowledge continue to be undervalued, as textbook companies churn out scripted curricula and technologies that make the teacher irrelevant, I become more concerned about the lost battles of teachers’ unions. I admire those Chicago teachers who refused to sit  idly by. Good for you, sweet home Chicago teachers’ union.