The CTU’s One-Day Strike

Today Chicago’s teachers waged a one-day strike.  The strike was not just for a new contract, but for a just public education system for the city’s students.  There are a couple of essential pieces to read regarding the strike.  I’ll link to each and share excerpts from them below.  First, check out this startling picture of the striking teachers taking to the city’s streets below…


First comes Jacobin‘s piece by Micah Uetricht who sat down with the CTU’s Sarah Chambers.  Here are a few of Chambers’ comments (but be sure to read the whole article!)..

They stopped paying our steps and lanes, which provide for pay increases based on time in the schools and degrees earned. Legally, they have to continue paying them, because we’re still under our old contract, which provides for steps and lanes pay increases. So they’re breaking the contract, which is why we’re going on an unfair labor practice strike.

Union leadership has indicated they aren’t particularly concerned whether the one-day strike is deemed legal or not — even though CPS has said it is illegal.

The consequences of not striking are far worse than striking. If you want to see the consequences of not striking, look at cities like Detroit, where they have skyrocketing class sizes and don’t have proper cleaning services. Look at New Orleans, which has no public schools left. These are the consequences of not fighting the privatization and austerity agenda in public education.

Labor needs to learn that they can’t be collaborationists. They have to fight back against the bosses, but also against the politicians that are hurting the workers. The only way to do that is to show militant force and withhold our labor.

A lot of unions have stopped using strikes as weapons. But striking is the most powerful weapon we have. I think our strike in 2012 started to re-energize labor; I hope that continues.

We can’t just be service model-style unions — we have to actually energize every single union, every single workplace, so our members, the rank and file, are the ones leading these actions.

Uetricht is also the author of the book Strike for America: The Chicago Teachers Against Austerity which you can get at the special price of only $1.00 this weekend as a special solidarity price!

The second thing to read, by the CTU’s Michelle Gunderson, was posted on Living in Dialogue.  She wrote up a blog post on Why We Will  Strike

A teachers’ contract is not just about money. It’s an agreement between government and a community about how children will be treated.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I will always advocate for reasonable compensation for educators, especially in light of the amount of education and expertise needed to do this work.

But a contract is more than a pay schedule.

As a member of the Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team I see our contract as a way of building a school system where both adults and children can work to build a world of respect, caring, and a joy of learning.

We’ve asked for a reduction in standardized testing to only include state mandated tests. Our schools are run through three layers of management – “downtown” offices, networks, and school site administration. At each step along the way, each level of management has demanded more and more testing. We know of schools where kindergarten teachers are using the Haggerty program and are required to give sight word tests to each child once a week. That is 20 percent of a classroom’s reading instructional time. That is beyond crazy. Children cannot learn to read if they are being constantly tested on their reading. And this is just one example.

We are negotiating for less paperwork so we can spend time and energy on our students. Along with the layer of management comes endless paperwork. Many of the lesson templates that administrators require are so tedious that they take almost as long to fill out as they do to teach. There is one thing I know for certain, no urban school district ever improved through increased paperwork.

We are being crushed under a punitive evaluation system that includes tests scores and observations based on the Danielson Framework. There is a saying that we teach what we test. Even worse than teaching to the test, an evaluation system based on a rubric that does not fit the varied forms of teaching necessary in a highly complex system perverts our schools into testing factories and with cookie cutter teaching. We are looking to broaden evaluation range bands so that teachers who are just learning their craft are not crushed by test scores that plummet their evaluations. In my mind, this is just a sense of fairness.

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