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I-Team: Is the Chicago teachers strike legal?

September 10, 2012 4:28:37 PM PDT
There is a new state law in place that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says bans teachers from striking for anything other than compensation. Emanuel says the two issues remaining on the table have nothing to do with that, raising the question: is this a legal strike?

Mayor Emanuel has repeatedly made the statement that the teachers union is conducting a strike of choice, and that teachers are striking over two items that are not subject to a job action under current Illinois law.

Emanuel says the law states teachers may strike only because of compensation, and according to the mayor, neither of the disputed contract items involve pay or benefits.

"We've asked them to postpone this so we can work out the other issues given how close we are," said Mayor Emanuel. "And the issues are not financial."

"The issues are not financial." The mayor said it Sunday night and again Monday; and the teachers union has suggested it as well:

"What I would say about the economics of this thing is that that isn't the main issue," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Sunday night.

According to Mayor Emanuel, teacher evaluation and teacher staffing are the two issues.

Mayor Emanuel: "Neither one of these issues are allowed to be strikeable by law...yet these are the final two issues."

Monday evening, as teachers are on the picket lines, and their negotiators are at the bargaining table across from Chicago public school officials, there is a dispute about whether just two items remain and whether this is an illegal strike.

An attorney for the Chicago Teachers Union says, although some items have been resolved Monday, there are many more than two open issues remaining, some involve compensation, and that Mayor Emanuel is wrong: teachers are permitted under the law to strike for certain non-pay issues, even including air-conditioned classrooms.

Monday, the I-Team asked Mayor Emanuel whether he would order city attorneys to court, challenge the strike as illegal and ask that teachers be ordered back to work. A spokesperson for the mayor late Monday afternoon said, his "first priority -- as it has been all along -- is to have the negotiating team meeting with the union rather than meeting with a judge."

Teachers union attorney Robert Bloch says some issues that are subject to collective bargaining are not shrinkable, but he reiterates teachers are currently within the law in what they are striking for.

Mayor Emanuel continues to disagree. However, he seems intent on working this out at the table, not in the courtroom.


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