Teachers writing own rules

Legislation designed to discourage teacher strikes in Illinois already is being tested.

In early 2011, state legislators passed an education reform package that included new rules to govern the negotiation of public school teacher contracts.

But, unfortunately, a recent strike authorization vote by Chicago teachers shows the bargaining process is not working as the legislation specified.

Obviously angry teachers voted to allow their union leaders to call a strike before, as the legislation requires, either management or labor made their last best offer. Further, the union vote completely ignores the negotiation timeline, including a 75-day fact-finding process by a third-party panel, that was built into the process.

Interestingly, the legislation that set out the new rules was agreed to by teachers' unions, including the one representing Chicago teachers. Given the turnabout, it's fair to wonder if the Chicago teachers' union is negotiating in good faith.

It should, of course, be no great surprise that unionized teachers in a city best known for its bare-knuckled politics are playing by their own rules. But the school reform package, which included other dramatic changes, was drafted to discourage teachers' strikes in Illinois, particularly in Chicago.

The legislation set out two sets of rules, one governing the Chicago schools and another for everyone else.

It's no secret that Chicago-area politicians, especially new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are apoplectic about the possibility of a teachers' strike. That's why the legislation contained tougher rules for Chicago than downstate.

For districts outside Chicago, labor and management, after a reasonable period of mediation, will be required to publicly release their last best offers. Supporters of the proposal contended that this kind of transparency, and resulting public scrutiny, will encourage both sides to settle.

Under Chicago's special rules, either management or labor can, after mediation, opt for a 75-day fact-finding process by third parties. After that, the panel will release its findings to the public. Finally, after a 30-day period, teachers can go on strike, but only if 75 percent of union members authorize a walkout.

It would be incorrect to suggest that what happens in Chicago will happen elsewhere. But if legislation intended to discourage a teacher strike in Chicago fails, it won't be a good sign for similar negotiations outside Chicago.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion
Categories (2):Editorials, Opinions

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Sid Saltfork wrote on June 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Seems to be rather one-sided.  Why didn't the new law require that the teachers be chained to their desks also?  The State of Illinois has targeted teachers.  The political sponsored media has demonized teachers.  The least educated among the citizens have howled against teachers.  Now, the teachers fight back; and they are accused of not playing fair?  What'a you gonna do?  Fire them all?

rsp wrote on June 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I'm always behind on these things. Sometimes I'm too busy to hunt everything down. I really wish  stories and editorials would have links to things that are relevant, like the legislation referred to in the column, so I could have a better understanding of the issue.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

The article fails to make the distinction between a "strike authorization", and an approved strike.  The teachers approved the union leaders to call a vote on a strike when negotiations fail.  The did not vote to strike now.  It is a distinction that perhaps the local media did not want to explain due to the local media's political views.