Chicago Teachers Union authorizes strike

Chicago Teachers Union authorizes strike

Many educators are wary of a strike’s hardships and long-term consequences for students, their families and the educators themselves. These teachers can remove themselves from CTU authority and the conflict between union priorities and students’ needs.

Not all teachers think going on strike is the answer when contract negotiations get tough. Not only do teachers lose pay and benefit contributions from their school district, but students miss instruction time, and students’ families are often left in a lurch. Depending on the school district, hundreds and even thousands of students may have no place to go during the day while teachers are on strike. What’s more, over the longer term, teachers strikes have had detrimental effects on both students or teachers. After the 2012 Chicago teachers strike, Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, ended up closing 50 schools and laying off thousands of teachers.

This summer, two CPS teachers penned an editorial encouraging their fellow teachers to get all of the facts before engaging in strike talk. Rather than perpetuating conflict between the union and the school district, these teachers want to “step up” for their students.

But the union can punish a teacher who decides that the education of students – or even her own financial needs – should come before union priorities.

Take Joe Ocol, a Chicago Public Schools teacher and chess coach in Englewood. When the Chicago Teacher’s Union, or CTU, called a one-day strike in April, Ocol went to school to coach his chess team – and his team subsequently took home a national championship. But CTU did not look favorably on Ocol’s decision to work during the strike and expelled him from the union.

CTU’s punishment of Ocol serves as a warning to teachers union members across the state. If a teacher doesn’t toe the union line, he or she can be subject to union punishment, such as fines or being expelled from the union.

Educators in CPS once again will be facing tough decisions in coming weeks. On Sept. 22-23, members of CTU voted to authorize a strike against CPS. A strike date could be announced as early as Sept. 28. A CTU strike would affect not only the thousands of teachers the school district employs, but also hundreds of thousands of students registered for the 2016-2017 school year and their families.

CPS teachers who find themselves stuck between priorities – student needs versus union priorities – do have a way out. Teachers do not have to maintain union membership to keep their jobs. Teachers can become fair share payers, and remove themselves from union authority.

By resigning from the union, a teacher can avoid potential union discipline and make the choice she thinks is best for herself and her students.

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