Tuesday, July 17, 2012

School negotiations turn to comic relief

Personally if I need a laugh, I’d want to turn to Redd Foxx. Even all these years later, the man is funny.

But some people seem to want to use our public officials and their inanities as a source of humor, and it seems the Chicago school officials and their teachers are going to be willing to play along.

BECAUSE I CAN’T help but find some warped humor in the way negotiations are going toward a new contract. And what is even more pathetic is the fact that officials seem willing to play along.

Talks between the two sides had reached such a stalemate that an arbitrator was brought in to try to negotiate a deal.

That arbitrator, according to the Chicago Tribune, is expected to recommend that teacher salaries be increased for the first year of any contract somewhere between 15-20 percent. Which is a figure that both sides will find completely unacceptable and will refuse to go along with.

Which is going to result in the general populace finding so many reasons to be critical of these people. And I suspect the ideological leanings of people will determine (moreso than the facts) which side they wind up taking.

SOME PEOPLE ARE going to try to spin this as an issue of a Chicago Teachers Union being ridiculous – if not outright greedy. After all, the Chicago schools had been offering a 2 percent pay raise. This is significantly higher.

Why shouldn’t the teachers’ union jump at the chance to accept it – and put the blame on the Chicago Public Schools officials for refusing to go along?

Yet I can’t help but confess that I don’t see the issue that way. In fact, I think the only people who are going to blame the unions are the ones who have ideological hang-ups that always cause them to blame organized labor.

Because I think the people who really are against this deal are the Chicago Public Schools officials. This arbitrator is about to give legitimacy to the claims that the teachers’ union has been making for months – which are flat-out opposed to the ideas that the Chicago Public Schools (and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) have been trying to put in our heads for months.

BECAUSE THE BEGINNING negotiating stance of the Chicago Teachers Union has always been to ask for a 29 percent raise – with 20 percent being for the added hours they’re going to be asked to work as part of a longer school day, and another 4 percent to compensate for a pay hike they had to give up.

As far as what the union was asking for as a pay hike for the upcoming year, it was 5 percent. Compared to the Chicago Public Schools’ offer of 2 percent, it doesn’t sound too far off.

The city has always contended that the teachers’ union was engaging in a stream of nonsense-talk by even bringing up the idea of compensation for a lost past pay raise and more work, in addition to a pay raise for the upcoming year.

Yet this arbitrator is making it clear that the teachers’ union isn’t being ridiculous at all in asking for such things, and that the city may well have to cough up at least a part of these demands if THEY’RE serious about wanting to avert a teacher’s strike sometime this autumn.

WHY DO I suspect that the last time a labor arbitrator upset management so intensely was back in 1975 when Peter Seitz sided with the Major League Baseball Players Association instead of the team owners and made the ruling that created the concept of free agency for veteran players?

No, I don’t expect the teachers of the Chicago Public Schools to become as wealthy as a one-time Cy Young Award winner who only this season is showing anything worth watching while pitching for the White Sox.
EMANUEL: How livid is he these days?

But this kind of ruling does undermine the idea that these teachers ought to be thankful anyone is willing to give them a 2 percent raise. It certainly undermines the hard line that the city officials (at Emanuel’s direction) have been trying to take with the school teachers.

Such as the one they want to spew when they cite studies such as the one that can be interpreted as saying that Chicago teachers are already among the highest-paid in the nation.

IT REINFORCES THE idea that if we do get the sight of teachers walking the picket lines this autumn, Emanuel and his people who have been out to bully the teachers’ union these past few months are going to have to take a significant share of the blame!

And in the end, it would be the students of the Chicago Public Schools who would wind up losing out.


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