by Paul Kersey
Director of Labor Policy
As thousands of families throughout Chicago watched anxiously, the process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement turned melodramatic at a Chicago Teachers Union Labor Day rally. CTU President Karen Lewis called Mayor Rahm Emanuel “a liar and a bully”, while teachers and representatives of several other unions chanted “enough is enough” and other slogans intended to convey that they had indeed had enough.
Had enough of what? Of working for a lying bully? No – they might strike but teachers indicated no interest in any systemic reform, like expanded charters or vouchers, that might replace the abominable Rahm and give someone else more control over schools. Lying bully or not, when it’s over, they’ll keep working for the guy.
The CTU President also presented her union as defenders of the kids: “If you come after our children, you come after us." So maybe they’ve had enough of dealing with an administration that doesn’t share their heartfelt concern for kids. Maybe they’d prefer to deal with someone who has more of a stake in a child's welfare, like parents? Doubtful as long as vouchers and expanded charter schools remain nonstarters.
The next morning Ms. Lewis told interviewers from the Chicago Tribune that her insults were “not personal” and that she was merely reflecting the opinions of the CTU’s rank and file. As evidence she referred to the signs that protesters were carrying.
But a lot of those signs were printed and passed out by the unions themselves; the union orchestrated the rally, and union speakers led the chants. Union publications repeat the union’s interpretation of developments in the school district. Not to say that teachers don’t have some legitimate reasons to be frustrated, but Ms. Lewis is being a wee bit disingenuous; the union hierarchy has had a large role to play in creating the sturm und drang.
Whether manufactured or real, the teachers’ frustrations have no real outlet except the one the union presents them with: the strike, and that will have to wait until Sept. 10. So at the end of the rally the protesters marched around the corner to City Hall and then around another corner to CPS headquarters. And then they went home to wait until either the CTU’s leaders make an agreement with the lying bully, or the strike begins.
They came, they vented, they went home.
In the meantime the rest of us might want to ask what exactly is accomplished with all the melodrama that CTU has attached to the business of negotiating a contract.