On Thursday, teachers in Chicago went on a strike after their union (CTU) rejected a deal from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Lee Adler, an expert on education and collective bargaining at Cornell University’s ILR School, says that to the union’s decision not to take the city’s offer stems from a desire to fix more than just teachers’ salaries.
“It is important to keep in mind that the CTU is a community union that sees itself as accountable to its community as well as its member constituencies. The CPS would be mistaken if they believe they can solve the multiple issues that concern the union by simply raising its financial offerings. The CPS is going to have to deliver on the CTU’s demand for more health care professionals, librarians, and at least some progress on smaller class size while showing economic and other respect to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) paraprofessionals and school related personnel or it will be tough to reach an agreement.
“Illinois law allows a public union like the CTU to only strike over financial-related issues. What that means is that there will be no certain agreement on raises, giving the CTU the right to strike over that disagreement, until the other, more quality of life learning and health issues for students are resolved satisfactorily to the CTU. Further, if the CPS tries to divide the CTU bargaining objectives from the educational service personnel’ objectives, represented by SEIU, whose contract expires at the same time as the CTU’s, the CTU can lawfully strike so long as the parties still disagree about wages.”