Retiring but still recalcitrant

Chicago Teachers Union members began voting yesterday on whether to authorize a walkout, potentially strengthening CTU President Karen Lewis’s hand in contract negotiations with Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Public Schools. Even with an affirmative vote, a strike is not guaranteed, but the union and district remain divided over class size and compensation (pay raises, merit pay, pay for a longer school day) and the conflict grows more complex daily as outside advocacy groups join the fray and hizzoner’s star continues its rise. The timing of the vote is revealing: As the Chicago Tribune pointed out, “taking the vote now will allow 1,500 retiring teachers—most of them union stalwarts—a chance to vote as well.” This not-insignificant cohort of the CTU’s nearly 30,000 members could be counted on to toe the line, so the union did the stretching necessary to ensure that loyalists got to cast their ballots. Regardless of whether the union ends up walking out on students next fall, such maneuvering is telling: As the teaching force greys and its faith in unions dwindles, catering to the whims of veterans who benefit the most from the status quo puts the CTU (and the AFT and the NEA) in a precarious position for the future. Younger teachers, who stand to gain the most from the district’s proposals, would do well to remember whose interests the union prioritized this week.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Chicago teachers to take strike vote on Wednesday,” by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune, June 2, 2012.

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