News Column

Chicago Teachers Strike Over Job Security, Pay Issues

Sept. 11, 2012

More than 350,000 children in Chicago remained out of school for a second day Tuesday as Chicago teachers strike over pay and job security issues. It was the first major strike in Chicago in 25 years, a heavily Democratic city and President Obama's political home.

Obama's former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is the city's current mayor. The strike forced him to stop fundraising efforts for Obama's re-election, according to media reports.

Emanuel's pledges for school reform echo a nationwide trend of demands by parents and politicians for an improvement in the quality of education. Critics of the current system charge that tenure arrangements all too often protect underperforming teachers.

Reformers want to attach teacher pay raises - and even continuing employment - to test score results and other quantifiable measures. Such issues play a major role in the Chicago strike.

Chicago teachers are also angry over pay, having seen their demands for a 29-per-cent raise over two years whittled down to 16 per cent over four years. The average teacher salary is 76,000 dollars. Chicago schools face a deficit of 700 million dollars, Bloomberg news agency reported.

The contract for the city's 26,000 unionized teachers expired in June. Negotiations have continued through the summer.

Emanuel's resolute response to the strike adds another fracture in the normally cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and unions. Nationwide, union organizers were upset that the Democratic Party held its nominating convention last week in North Carolina, a right-to-work state which makes union organizing difficult.

Public employee unions are under fire in Republican-governed states such as Wisconsin, which have taken legal steps to restrict their ability to bargain collectively. In addition, the recession has left many school districts strapped for cash to accommodate pay increase demands.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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