Chicago teacher sees firsthand what union values: it isn’t students

Chicago teacher sees firsthand what union values: it isn’t students

Allowing teachers unions to hold students and homeowners hostage is not the norm.

Olivia Waldron has experienced how being on the Chicago Teachers Union picket line isn’t always in the best interests of students, parents or teachers.

“In 2012, we had a seven-day strike. I remember at that time, I didn’t totally understand what exactly we were striking for but showed up on the picket line anyway. I was feeling so unsure about it all, and I felt horrible not being in the classroom for my students.”

Then in 2019 she felt even worse when she saw her son’s start at a Chicago Public School interrupted by another strike.

“It went on for 11 [school] days. School needs are so different across the city, so it was really hard for me to go on strike because I work at a school that serves low-income students and the teachers at my school were, for the most part, set with everything we needed.”

The Chicago Teachers Union has been the prime example of abusing strike powers. The 2019 strike cost students 11 days of classes. It was projected to cost residents an average of $80 a year in higher property taxes. The 2012 strike forced Chicago to close 50 schools and lay off thousands of teachers to help satisfy the expensive contract that followed.

Allowing teachers unions to hold students and homeowners hostage is not the norm.

Teacher strikes are illegal in eight of the 10 largest school districts in the nation. Chicago is one of the two districts where strikes are allowed.

All but one of Illinois’ neighboring states explicitly prohibit teacher strikes. Yet, union bosses are moving to permanently embed the right of teachers’ unions to walk out on students within the Illinois Constitution.

State lawmakers passed Amendment 1 this spring, a proposal to change the constitution and increase government union powers. Voters will determine its fate on Nov. 8, 2022.

No other special interest is offered protection by the Illinois Constitution. No other state constitution limits legislative power over government unions.

Illinois would be the first.

The language in Amendment 1 includes the following provision: “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….”

That means lawmakers would never be able to limit or prohibit teachers strikes in Illinois. Most government unions would have the perpetual right to call strikes, not just over salaries and benefits but to ensure their demands for any provisions are met.

School could be interrupted against the will of teachers, students, and parents – a tactic the Chicago Teachers Union, for one, threatens to use for its social agenda on housing, immigration, “restorative justice,” wealth redistribution and defunding the police.

There’s a reason other states don’t include labor policy in their constitutions: that’s not where labor policy belongs.

The Illinois Constitution is where government operations are defined – not where a certain economic policy is favored or where one group gains special treatment at the expense of others. The ability for union leaders to negotiate for things state lawmakers cannot reject or curb is anti-democratic and anti-education.

“Going into the 2020-2021 school year, I saw the lack of humility, class and focus from union leadership. They were no longer advocating for teachers’ essential labor rights but advocating more for a political agenda. And they most certainly were not concerned with the well-being of the students,” Waldron said.

CTU social media also upset Waldron. CTU leaders praised Venezuela’s socialist policies. Another leader sent beach photos of her vacation in Puerto Rico during the pandemic while she encouraged other teachers not to go back to classrooms because it was so unsafe.

“The way they represented union members through their negative, unproductive and unprofessional social media posts and news conferences and endorsements was shameful and it no longer represented me as an educator,” Waldron said. “The CTU leadership made it clear where they stood, and any teacher or parent that was not on board would not have their voice heard. They have gotten so far away from the true education and teacher matters.”

Amendment 1 is being portrayed as a “worker’s rights amendment.” But it would insulate government union leaders so thoroughly that state lawmakers would never again have the power to restrict them.

Voters on Nov. 8, 2022, will decide whether union bosses should permanently continue their strikes and political power grabs without limits, or whether parents and teachers should determine what’s best for children’s educations.

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