A part of me wants to relax, after learning Thursday that the members of the Chicago Teachers Union gave an overwhelming vote of support for the contract agreement they got after forcing the schools to shut down for seven school days.
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Union officials made it known that 16,428 union members voted in favor of accepting the deal, compared to 4,337 who would just have soon taken to the picket lines again and resumed the labor dispute.
ALL OF WHICH makes the vote in the near future by the Chicago Public Schools a formality. They’ll back the deal as well, and life will be all peachy keen for the next two years.
I write that sentence knowing full well how much sarcasm drips from it. Because despite the fact that 79.1 percent of union local members backed the agreement (the “highest approval rating for a contract in the history of the union,” officials said Thursday), there is the fact that there is still a whole lot of distrust between the two sides.
I’m sure there will be teachers who will not forget any time soon just how much city and schools officials, particularly Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to demonize them in order to pressure a deal for much less than what they got.
I’m also convinced that the ego of Emanuel will resent having to make much in the way of concessions – since he likes to think of himself as the tough guy who stands up to bullies and forces them to back down (even though a new poll indicates many of us are more inclined to think of the mayor as a mediocrity these days).
SO DOES THAT make union local President Karen Lewis the bully who wouldn’t back down. Or is it Emanuel himself who was the equivalent of the schoolyard thug, now walking about with a black eye.
Everybody is going to be convinced that they’re correct, and that the other side is wrong. It will be a long time before any feelings are smoothed over to where these people will be able to “play nice,” so to speak, with any sincerity.
Yet all we, the people with an interest in the Chicago Public Schools either because we have kids there or because we sense that our city’s public image relies in large part on the quality of education one can get outside of a Catholic school in the city, have out of this is a three-year deal.
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Is that enough time for hurt feelings to be assuaged?
A POINT THAT I heard mentioned briefly in the moments after a contractual agreement was reached, but which hasn’t been discussed since, is that this contract will expire right around the time of the next Chicago municipal elections.
Which means that round about the time that we’ve finished electing an Illinois governor to serve through January 2019 and Emanuel is going to have to start thinking about whether he wants to have a second term as Chicago mayor, he’s going to have to do the renegotiation thing again.
Could it be that the local is plotting its own revenge in making sure that the next round of negotiations will be so acrimonious that it will make this year’s labor talks seem like a kiddy tea party by comparison?
It makes me wonder if we have labor officials who would love to be able to make Emanuel look weak and ineffectual at a time when he could be trying to make himself appear almighty and powerful in hopes of getting “four more years” at City Hall.
COULD THAT WIND up motivating Emanuel to go ahead and take the tougher stand against teachers come 2014 to make up for what has happened now?
If all of this sounds like speculation about juvenile behavior on the part of labor, schools and city officials, you’d be correct.
Then again, we have officials who like to say they’re doing all this “for the children.” Perhaps hanging around kids so much has reduced them to acting like children!