CHICAGO, IL – Talks broke down between the Chicago Teachers Union and the public school board on Sunday night, making way for the city’s first strike in 25 years. Today, twenty-six thousand teachers in the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike, walking picket lines as Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted it as “strike of choice.”
The two groups had been arguing over benefits and job security for months and the Chicago Teacher’s Union made good on its promise to strike if the city wouldn’t meet their demands. “We’re tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed,” Karen Lewis, head of the Teacher’s Union said in August, “We have done everything asked of us, yet we continue to be vilified and treated with disrespect.”
On Monday, 26,000 teachers failed to show up at school meaning that 402,000 students across the city had nothing to do. Officials made arrangements to watch and feed the 80% of Chicago’s students who qualify for the free lunch program.
CBS Chicago reports that salary figures provided by the Chicago Public Schools show its teachers make the highest average salary of any city in the nation. A prime sticking point was pay increases to compensate teachers for working a longer school day.
A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said average pay for teachers, without benefits, is $76,000. The school board’s last offer included a 3 percent raise the first year and 2 percent raises the next three years — a slight increase from an earlier offer of two percent raises in each of the next four years. The package, which would cost $400 million, keeps increases for experience and credentials with some modifications.
The contract amounted to a 16% raise over four years for the average teacher when factoring other increases. And the raises could not be rescinded for lack of funds, which is what happened this past school year, angering teachers and helping to set the stage for Monday’s strike.
Instead the union turned down the terms, began the strike and subsequently left hundreds of parents scrambling to find alternatives for their children on Monday morning.