Historic

This week the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a fact-finder’s report and threatened to go out on strike.

You may remember that CTU went on strike in 2012. Of course you remember. There is no shortage of people reminding you that it was the catalyst for all that followed, and “brought teachers unions back from the dead.”

On the first anniversary of the strike, CTU lauded its own accomplishments. “After weeks of dramatic labor negotiations, protests, news conferences and rallies at the Board of Education teachers walked away with one of the strongest labor contracts in recent history, a more unified workforce and the distinction of haven taken on a powerful, media-savvy mayor and won,” reads a September 10, 2013 statement.

It went on: “For the first time in CTU history, the union was able to secure a number of gains for its members including, blocking the use of merit pay and standardized test scores in teacher evaluations; a principal anti-bullying clause; freedom to develop lesson plans; the hiring of art, music and physical education teachers to create a ‘better school day’ for students as the year grew longer; significant cost of living increases; and short-term disability leave for pregnant teachers.”

The union evaluation of the next contract, reached under threat of a strike in 2016, was far from glowing, but was still positive.

“This is not a perfect agreement,” said CTU president Karen Lewis. “But it is good for the kids. And good for the clinicians. And good for the teachers, and the paraprofessionals.”

A DNAinfo analysis found “the union won significantly more resources for classrooms across the city while maintaining — and in some cases expanding — lucrative perks for teachers and support staff members by forcing (Chicago Public Schools) to renegotiate the pact while threatening to strike.”

“There is no doubt we achieved concrete victories,” said Jesse Sharkey, then the CTU vice president. “But it is not the best contract ever.”

So it’s with a side-eye that we notice this quote from Sharkey, now CTU president, earlier this week about the district’s current offer.

“Though the wage and benefit proposals will be said to be generous by the mayor and CPS’ team, they come in the context of nearly a decade of austerity and cuts for Chicago’s teachers and other school staff,” Sharkey said. “We’ve endured three freezes, multiple furloughs, layoffs and other cuts.”

A lot of ink and bandwidth has been consumed since 2012, but I don’t recall any of it concluding that the historic Chicago teacher strike and “one of the strongest labor contracts in recent history” led to “nearly a decade of austerity and cuts for Chicago’s teachers and other school staff.”

I don’t know what will happen if Chicago teachers strike in 2019, but at least they can look forward to another reinterpretation of history once a deal is reached.

Share