Chicago Teachers Union seeks more negotiating power, strike authority in HB 1253

Chicago Teachers Union seeks more negotiating power, strike authority in HB 1253

While states surrounding Illinois are enacting labor reforms that benefit residents, Illinois remains a bastion of labor power. Now the Chicago Teachers Union wants even more power – including the broadened right to go on strike and strand parents and students.

While most states in the Midwest have tackled labor reform, Illinois stands apart from its neighbors. All of the surrounding states are now Right-to-Work states, and states like Wisconsin, Missouri and Iowa have enacted reforms that rein in union power in the collective bargaining process.

New legislation would take Illinois even further in the opposite direction, to the detriment of students and parents in the Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, system.

The Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, is pushing House Bill 1253, which gives the union broader rights when negotiating certain subjects with CPS. It also gives the union more opportunities to strike.

HB 1253 would strip the school district of control over class size, class schedules, the academic calendar, length of school day and school year and many other administrative duties. And in turn, CTU could strike over those provisions if CPS doesn’t yield.

CTU is no stranger to using strikes to get political concessions. In 2012, CTU went on strike demanding higher wages, even though CTU members already received high salaries and generous benefits. In the short term, students missed instruction time and students’ families were left in a lurch. Thousands of students had no place to go during the day while teachers were on strike.

The 2012 strike also had longer-term effects. After the strike ended, CPS had to close 50 schools and lay off thousands of teachers.

On April 1, 2016, CTU once again turned its back on students and parents by calling a one-day strike. What’s more, the union even punished teachers who chose to support their students that day. Joe Ocol, a teacher and chess coach in Englewood, went to school April 1 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 prioritize his students over the union’s agenda, and it expelled him from the union.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board subsequently found the strike was likely illegal. But the damage had already been done.

Then on Sept. 22-23, members of CTU voted to authorize yet another strike against CPS. The union prepared to strike, but a contract with CPS was negotiated before CTU once again decided to step out on students.

CTU doesn’t need more subjects over which it can strike. And its track record of walking out on parents and students proves it.

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