Amendment 1 would come between teachers, dedication to students

Amendment 1 would come between teachers, dedication to students

Amendment 1 would give Illinois teachers a permanent right to strike, taking more class time away from teachers who believe their place is with their students instead of on the picket line. Voters will decide Nov. 8.

In 2016 when the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike, three weeks before chess nationals, Chicago Public Schools teacher Joe Ocol chose to cross the picket line to run chess practice.

His team went on to win the national title, receiving presidential, congressional, and mayoral recognition. The Chicago’s Teachers Union’s recognition was to revoke Ocol’s union membership.

“It is my duty to be with my kids. I joined CPS as a teacher, not as a union member. So my role first and foremost is to be a teacher, to be with my students inside my classroom,” he said.

Ocol made the same choice when the Chicago Teachers Union walked out on students Jan. 5, the union’s third work stoppage in less than three years. The dispute was over COVID-19 testing and remote learning, although Chicago’s top health official and other large city schools saw no need to suspend in-person learning. The walkout cost students five days.

“My loyalty to the union ends where my commitment to the students begins,” Ocol said. “There are a lot of ways to impose safety measures and changes. You don’t dangle the plight of the kids or sacrifice the kids, just for your demands. I made a promise that I will be in my classroom, and so I came into school.”

On Nov. 8, Illinoisians will vote on whether to give unions such as CTU the permanent right to strike over virtually anything. Here’s how.

The Illinois General Assembly in Spring 2021 placed Amendment 1 on the upcoming ballot. The proposal’s language includes the following: “No law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and work place safety….”

Lawmakers will never be able pull back on union power – including the power to strike – if the amendment passes because that would be diminishing union rights to organize or bargain. Union bosses would forever hold the power to strike over virtually anything, which could mean more strikes – even against the will of members and at the expense of students and families.

CTU has already demonstrated a willingness to strike over COVID-19 public health policy, despite the science, but its political agenda and negotiating tactics have been applied to much more. CTU has tried to negotiate its social agenda on housing, immigration, “restorative justice,” wealth redistribution and defunding the police.

For teachers such as Ocol, Amendment 1 could force more lost time when he could be helping students. Union bosses across the state would be emboldened to use students as pawns to get what they want – a strategy CTU has repeatedly used.

Union power plays are already spread far beyond Chicago. Illinois is an outlier when it comes to teacher strikes.

Teachers unions in Illinois have threatened to strike 164 times, then actually taken to the picket lines 48 times in the past 10 years, according to annual reports filed by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Nearly all of Illinois’ neighboring states explicitly prohibit teacher strikes. Yet, Amendment 1 could see them becoming a more frequent tactic of educational unions across the state.

Under Illinois law, educational unions must give 10 days’ notice to the labor board before walking out, yet CTU gave parents about 8 hours to find child care or take off work before the most recent walk out. CTU is Exhibit A in how unions routinely overuse existing powers, hurting students and fellow Illinoisans.

Amendment 1 could make this worse not just for Chicago Public Schools students, but all school districts across the state. The amendment will embolden unions across the state to use work stoppages over any issue.

Teachers such as Ocol shouldn’t have to fight to stay in their classrooms. Nothing should carry more power than their dedication to their students, but voters will have the final say about that on Nov. 8.

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