Joe Ocol

Joe Ocol

“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.”

“My loyalty to the union ends where my commitment to the students begins. 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 today.”

“I didn’t have any students, so I spent the day reorganizing the classroom. Our students lose every day there’s a strike. They have already lost more than a year of learning. And now another loss for them is so sad.”

“We don’t have COVID here. In fact, we’ve been observing a lot of safety measures here. That’s the reason why we don’t have COVID here. It depends on the school and it depends on the administration of the school, but to do a sweeping conclusion that everybody should be staying home doesn’t make sense. Can you imagine if everybody was locked down again? What would happen to the country?”

“I left the union after they went on strike in 2016. I couldn’t abandon my students. We were scheduled to practice for Chess Nationals, and the union did not tell me or tell the teachers that there would be a sudden call for a strike.”

“I said, ‘I cannot break my promise to my students. They’re waiting.’ So I crossed the picket line, and we practiced chess. Three weeks from then we won Chess Nationals, and we even we got invited also to the White House. We met President Obama and Congressman Davis created a Congressional resolution recognizing my students.”

“So I didn’t join the strike in 2016 or in 2019 when they were demanding a salary increase. I don’t see a correlation between salary increases and the plight of the kids. Will it make the kids better students? Why dangle the kids in the middle of the fight? That’s not fair to the kids. And that’s my point. Of course, it’s good to get salary increase. But it’s not conscionable to receive a salary increase and yet to sacrifice the kids to receive it.”

“I have nothing against the union, but I have something against people who use the union for a political agenda for their own self-interest, because I feel that this has something to do with political motives.”

“You pay the union and yet every time there’s an election, they endorse a candidate you may or may not agree with. They use your union dues to support the candidate by donating from the union coffers. The union should be apolitical, and their concern should be for the kids.”

“I feel bad for the students who have lost over a year of school and now they’re being delayed further. I feel bad for the parents that have to go to work but cannot because we’re not in school. It is a sad situation.”

Joe Ocol
Chicago Public Schools teacher
Chicago, Illinois

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