City files injunction to end strike; ruling Wednesday

September 17, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"We filed our papers with the court today seeking an injunction. All pretty straightforward, our goal is to do everything we can possibly to get the children back in school. The court will now set a hearing time and date to consider the motion. We should know when that will be later on today," said CPS lawyer Larry Dinardo.

The legal battle began with a brief appearance by attorneys for the city before Judge Peter Flynn. He did not set a date for arguments asking whether it would make sense to wait until Wednesday, with the union's House of Delegates to vote Tuesday afternoon.

The city wanted to move Monday, contending that "state law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues."

Things like teacher evaluations, layoffs and recall procedures are solved by arbitration - not at the bargaining table. And because the strike goes on, the city says "it constitutes a clear and present danger to public health and safety."

Teachers remain on the strike line Monday. In a written statement, union leaders say "if this was an illegal strike the Chicago Public Schools would have sought injunctive relief on day one." They call the city's legal action "...a spur-of-the-moment decision," a "vindictive act ... consistent with Mayor Emanuel's bullying behavior toward public educators.

Both sides say the law is on their side.

Emily Rosenberg, director, DePaul University Labor Education Center, says she believes teachers striking over non-economics is within the law.

"I don't believe they are striking illegally at all," she said. "This issue was never raised, by the way, in the first couple of days of striking that I recall. It's only because I think they're very angry that the teachers haven't accepted a tentative, non-specific agreement, which is prudent for the teachers to wait and see.

"If the court interprets the statute broadly and says they're allowed to strike over things that impact their wages, hours and conditions of employment, yes, that is a reasonable interpretation," said Associate Professor Zev Eigen, Northwestern University School of Law. "I think that's an over-broad one, but one could interpret it that way. Then the union would be allowed to strike."

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. It's a moot point, however, if the union's House of Delegates chooses to recommend to its members to accept the contract as is.

CTU delegates review 260-page contract

Delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union say they need time to go through the 260-page contract proposal before ending a teachers strike, which is its second week.

That contract is the result of negotiations with Chicago Public Schools, and includes raises for teachers-- 3 percent in the first year, 2 percent for the next two years, and another three percent if both sides agree to extend the contract to a fourth year, and additional raises for experience and education; job security measures; and the same health benefits for teachers who participate in a wellness program.

"Both sides seem to be satisfied with economics, with regard to raises," Marc Wigler, DePaul University adjunct education professor, said.

At issue are two reform issues: the hiring back laid-off teachers and how to evaluate teachers. For the first time since 1967, the agreement has a new teacher evaluation system. That new evaluation system is long overdue, according to Wigler, who said the old system is antiquated.

"It was such that, Were your bulletin boards nicely displayed? Did children walk in a nice line? Did you have children's work up on the wall?" Wigler said.

In the proposed contract, teachers will be evaluated partly on student growth, which means how students improve on their test scores. There's also more job security tied into those evaluations as principals will continue to hire teachers at their schools, but they must choose from a pool that will contain 50-percent of laid-off teachers, who are rated "proficient" or better.

"Those teachers who have a "needs improvement" or deemed "unsatisfactory" are not part of the pool," Wigler said.

Several small items in the proposal are good for the students, such as a guarantee that CPS students will get textbooks on the first day of class and teachers will get more money for school supplies.

In some schools in low income neighborhoods, students can wait months for books.

Strike costs add up

As the strike stretches into a second week, there are signs union leaders are steering their members toward accepting the school district's deal.

"There's different reports coming in from around the city but for the most part I think people feel they've fought the good fight for great schools and this contract will help get us closer to that goal," said Jackson Potter, CTU staff coordinator.

That near endorsement comes as the cost of strike adds up.

CPS stats reveal the average teacher loses $292 each day they're on the picket line; $1,461 dollars in the first week alone.

The teachers union does not offer its members strike pay. But members will more than likely make-up the lost wages when strikes days are made up at the end of the year.

The district has budgeted as much as $25 million to pay for its Children First activity centers for needy kids but hasn't spent that much.

Protests by parents are growing.

"If the children are first then they need to be back in school. So by saying children first, that's not enough," said Frances Neuma, parent.

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