In Chicago, the battle between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come to a head with 89 percent of educators voting to authorize a strike in the Fall if contracts cannot be finalized over the Summer. Public polling suggests that Chicago citizens support the union, even if they do support Emanuel’s campaign pledge to extend the school day. Conducted by Tribune/WGN-TV, the poll shows Emanuel’s approach to the school board, which he has vilified in this very public negotiation, are unpopular:
The poll found 62 percent approve of Emanuel’s effort to keep students in school longer each day, compared to 32 percent who oppose it. Support was even greater among parents of Chicago Public Schools students, at 66 percent…
Although Chicago residents favor the longer day, support was down from a similar Tribune poll in January 2011, months before Emanuel took office. Then, 78 percent of city residents favored more time in the classroom, compared to 17 percent who opposed it…
If teachers are going to teach longer hours, they should be paid more for it, the poll found. Sizable majorities of Chicago residents as a whole (86 percent) and public school parents (92 percent) agreed with that concept.
Perhaps somewhat surprising was the support the teachers union garnered over Emanuel. On the question of who voters sided with in the more comprehensive debate over improving the city’s public school system, the union scored a better than 2-1 ratio over the mayor, who has had a testy relationship with the union’s leadership.
Among all respondents, 40 percent sided with the union, compared to 17 percent who backed Emanuel. Thirty-six percent said they supported neither. Among public school parents, 48 percent sided with the teachers union and 18 percent sided with the mayor. Thirty percent said they sided with neither.
On Monday, the CTU voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. A 75% “yes” vote was needed to pass but an impressive 89% voted in favor. This gives the union some momentum going into contract negotiations and sends a message to the Mayor that the group is unified behind the idea of a strike if need be. The Chicago Tribue provides some background on what is being argued over:
With Emanuel’s backing, the Illinois legislature recently passed SB 7, which undermines seniority as the basis of job security, extends teachers’ probation period for test-based evaluation from two years to four, removes bargaining disputes from the Illinois Labor Relations Board, and ups the union’s strike quota to 75% of all covered employees (this last provision only applies to Chicago; the quota remains at 50% elsewhere). Since his election, the mayor has phased in longer school days while simultaneously demanding wage cuts—2% raises spread over a five year period, a net loss accounting for inflation and increases in healthcare fees.
The problem with Emanuel in the public’s eye is that he is untrustworthy. At best, they question his technique:
“It’s his attitude, the way he is with people,” said respondent Laura Diaz, a mother to four children in CPS. “It’s too early to judge really who he is. He’s trying to do everything all at once, and you don’t really know what’s ahead.”