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Chicago's teachers end strike
by Loralaine Baird
Tuesday Sep 18th, 2012 11:44 PM
The ChicagoChicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voted Tuesday to end its seven-day strike. This means that classes will resume on Sept. 19 (Wednesday) for the country’s third largest school district’s 350,000 public school students.
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The ChicagoChicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voted Tuesday to end its seven-day strike. This means that classes will resume on Sept. 19 (Wednesday) for the country’s third largest school district’s 350,000 public school students.

“Everybody is going back to school,” said Jay Rehak, a delegate from Whitney Young High School.

The strike was ended following a voice vote, said Delegate Mike Bochner. It was, he said, “an overwhelming majority” who voted to suspend the strike. “I’m really excited. I’m really relieved.” Bochner is a teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the vote was approved “like 98 percent to 2. We said that it was time; that we couldn’t solve all the problems of the world with one contract. And it was time to suspend the strike. I am so thrilled people are going back. ... Everybody is looking forward to seeing their kids tomorrow, I can guarantee you that.”

The Chicago Public Schools website immediately posted a banner announcing the end of the strike:

“Information alert: CTU leadership has chosen to end the strike. All CPS schools will be re-open Wednesday, September 19, and all CPS students are expected to be back in the classroom.”

As indicated the vote was not unanimous – almost, but not quite. “I feel great about it,” said Rolando Vazquez, a delegate from Brighton Park Elementary School. “We’re going back to school tomorrow. The parents and the [citizens of the] city were with us, three-to-one against [Mayor] Rahm Emanuel. And we made a great show of strength.”

Those few who voted against ending the strike, however, were resigned to go along with the overwhelming majority. “We looked at what we lost and what we gained,” said delegate David Boby of Sullivan High. “The children of Chicago are the net winners because they are going to have their teachers back in their classrooms tomorrow.”

A statement summarizing the contract was issued by the Delegates:

“Our brothers and sisters throughout the country have been told that corporate ‘school reform’ was unstoppable, that merit pay had to be accepted and that the public would never support us if we decided to fight. Cities everywhere have been forced to accept performance pay. Not here in Chicago. Months ago, CTU members won a strike authorization, one that our enemies thought would be impossible. Now we have stopped the board are imposing merit pay! We preserved our lanes and steps when the politicians and press predicted they were history. We held the line on healthcare costs. We have tremendous victories in this contract; however, it is by no means perfect. While we did not win on every front and will need to continue our struggle into the future, we soundly defended our profession from an aggressive and dishonest attack. We owe our victories to each and every member of this rank and file union. Our power comes from the bottom up.”

And, not all parents supported the strike, either. “We’re on day seven. This is long enough,” said Julia Kim, who organized a group of about 20 parents to picket outside the CTU’s Merchandize Mart headquarters Tuesday.

“We’re against the strike. We’re against the CTU. We want the strike to be over and the entire bargaining process to take place while kids are in school,” said Kim, who has a fourth-grade CPS student.

Other parents, however, said the teachers should take their time and get it right. Another group of 40 parents and community members calling themselves “Action Now” rallied in a Chicago neighborhood. “We absolutely don’t think teachers should have ended their strike on Sunday,” said Herzl Elementary School Local School Council member Windy Pearson.

“Delegates were given 23 pages of a 180-page contract that was not complete. The members weren’t given anything...They’re expected to vote on something without seeing it. The parents that are now standing on the opposite side of the fence telling teachers to go back to school should understand that no one would sign anything without seeing it.”

So, despite many outstanding issues remaining, and the various parties' still widely differing postions, the Chicago public schools will open tomorrow morning. It’s a sure bet, though, that these matters will rise again, and sooner rather than later.