Open mike on the strike

What up peeps? I saw PhiloDave’s earlier post and followed the link to the post on Diane Ravitch’s blog. The reply from phillip cantor got me thinking. It reads:

“You can also support the CTU by spreading the word via social media. So much of the mainstream media and the “common sense” you hear from folks doesn’t address the real issues. You can educate people.”

Very true. So in the spirit of spreading the word and supporting our union sisters and brothers, I hope we can use this post to hear about the real issues, not what the media would like us to hear (and of course, believe).

I’d like to be educated in this matter. Sure, I’ll read the papers and watch the news; but I believe it is important to balance all of that with words from CPS teachers. So if you know a teacher that’s on strike, ask them to share their story on this site; just like Andrew did. Time to level the media playing field. Anonymity welcomed/encouraged.

I’ll do my best to get the discussion started:
I read this excerpt from this story titled, Teachers strike expected to go into 2nd day, from the Trib:

Emanuel sought to reassure parents that CPS was working quickly to resolve the situation and return kids to the classroom. He again characterized the strike as “one of choice” by teachers and said that it could have been avoided.

What say you the CPS teacher? True?
IMHO, Yes, it was a choice. No joke. But, it was not a choice that was made lightly. If my boss decided to increase my teaching load from 15 contact hours a semester to 16 and only pay me for 15, what choice does that leave me? Hmmm… let’s see. I could, A) say yes, I’ll work 16 contact hours while you pay me for 15, or B) say no, that’s not fair, pay me for the extra contact hour.
True, the strike could have been avoided if, A) the mayor does not extend the school day until negotiating with CTU, or B) increase the school day and compensate the teachers.

If you know a CPS teacher, send them a link to The Lounge. I’d like to hear their side. Educate me.

7 thoughts on “Open mike on the strike

  1. Aren’t all strikes “of choice”?
    I hate to get too deep into the semantics here, but anyone who goes on strike is making a choice. The conditions under which they make that choice might vary, but there’s always a choice, right?

    Also … “GradesFirst” — Is this the most appropriately named program ever? They don’t even pretend to care about things like “learning” or “growth.” Grades, folks. First and foremost. Grades.

    What a week …

  2. Admittedly I’m no expert on history (see my handle). As we move from Day 2 to Day 3, and as I watch how it is affecting my wife, I wonder if there is an alternative flavor of civil disobedience/protest (with respect to labor relations) to a strike. Those of you who know me off the lounge and have chatted about strikes with me know that I don’t like them as a protest mechanism. I like what Andrew said and that got me thinking about the usefulness of them, yet I still wish there was another method. A teacher’s state of being is to teach. Though there are lessons to be gleaned from this experience, and students will make a full recovery with respect to curriculum and their futures, ultimately teachers are turned from facilitators of learning to activists when many perhaps have tried to maintain an apolitical existence in the confines and safety of the four walls of their classrooms. Don’t get me wrong. It is impossible to disentangle politics from the institution of school. Yet, the interaction between teacher and student in the classroom can be one that becomes a “politics of choice” rather than an imposition of politic. The point of my early late night ramble is to say that while I believe CPS teachers are obligated to have fair working conditions, I also believe that a respite (albeit hopefully brief) from one’s state of being can perhaps cause more harm than good, even if the contract is better. I began by saying I’m no expert in history. From what I gather, did those of you involved in the 2005 strike (which occurred right before I started teaching at HW and, funnily enough, I was completely unaware of at the time) start to lose steam and become disenchanted with what you were fighting for? Did you all believe the strike was the appropriate mechanism or did some feel as I feel now that there must be an alternative? Were any on the fence but felt obligated to participate even though you’d felt the strike had gone on long enough? These are just curiosities and perhaps they illuminate the fact that I’m not the radical activist I thought I was, at least when push comes to shove. Thanks for reading. Feel free to dislike at will. I take no offense. This is just my procrastination and empathy talking.

  3. I can hear your frustration, Mathissexy. This is my late late night post 🙂 In my experience, there is often not an alternative, unfortunately. I think it all boils down to how much we can take, as individual educators, and as a collective body, from administrators or management. Hypothetically, how would you react if district raised our course load to 21 credits each semester and 15 hours of office hours, took away our health insurance, gave no increases in salary, and monitored our every move with a video cam? Now that is just being an extreme example, I admit. However, to many of us, the items in our proposal were just the tip of the iceberg, an indication of the dire cuts in future proposals from district. And, I imagine to CTU, they believe whole heartedly that their district is trying to usurp the working conditions that are necessary for them to be effective educators.

    Often, as human beings, we cannot sit idly by and have the rug pulled out from under us. We do have to let our voice be heard and we need to recognize that frequently, that voice will fall on deaf ears. So do we just quit? Do we give up? Or are we so tied to our income that we are willing to be tread upon, saying ‘Well at least we have a job?’ I think not and I hope not.

    So, I do hear your frustration, but always remember, you and your wife are not alone. As educators, we want what is best for our students, but we also want to be respected. So, I’m not very optimistic about alternatives. It isn’t like the administration has not been aware of issues plaguing CPS schools, yet they have seemed to focus on their central office. They are more concerned about expenditures, it seems.

    • Thanks for this reply. I’m still concerned about the strike mechanism itself. What if doctors decided to strike? I know nurses have had strikes to the detriment of their hospital and perhaps it was worth it, but doctors and nurses take an oath to do no harm. Can that oath be amended to say, “do no harm unless we feel we are being harmed?” All I’m saying is that I wish there were another way to protest other than walking out. I understand the need for a fair contract or for opening the door to future opportunities for a district to impose an expenditure focused, likely ignorant agenda, but I just wish there was another version of protest. Again, just my $0.02. I may not be wearing red (since I don’t own any) but I am still in solidarity with the cause. I just have doubts about the mechanism given our occupation.

  4. Great discussion peeps!
    I hear you mathissexy and Kathact. Here’s my two cents based on your words. Like you, mathissexy, I take no offense to a counter argument. (Dig in, and have your say, this is what we should do if we are to call ourselves educators.)

    I don’t see the strike as an act of civil disobedience. The union was formed according to labor laws. The union voted to strike, an option that is well within their union rights. So, no, they are not being unruly, they are simply exercising an option that has been legally given to them. (By the way, the politicos know this is a terrific option to counter their corrupt acts, that’s why they want to take this option away from the laborers. Apparently strikes work.)

    Should teachers be striking? I had similar thoughts when I saw the photos in the local media (and also had a teacher send me one from the rally). It does look out of place, yes. Just like doctors would look out of place striking in front of a hospital. However, when we come down to the meat and potatoes of it all, we are laborers. We labor with our brains. So, yes, we should strike when it becomes necessary. If not, like Kathact commented, we will not get the respect we deserve. Will parading around in red shirts through the streets of downtown and halting traffic to the anger and dismay of corporate, non-union, employees get teachers that respect? I don’t know, but it gets the attention of the public and I hope the public recognizes what is at stake. I believe there needs to be civility in the process. I’d start there if I was striking.

    Yes, Kathact, it is about respect for what we do. We may not be surgeons, but we play a vital role in the development of one.

    Almost forgot, I don’t think politicos leave teachers with other mechanisms. My understanding is that administration (CCC and CPS) call the shots as to when they want to negotiate and all teachers can do is wait. The mechanism we need is administrators working with teacher, but admins don’t want to give up that power. Sometimes you have to fight power with power.

    • Thanks for this as well. Perhaps I need to be a bit more clear about what I mean by other mechanisms. I was disappointed to hear of the fairly unsuccessful strikes from laborers at Caterpillar Joliet and the iron workers, granted those had to do with wages while CTU v. CPS doesn’t. I was thinking about alternate methods. I’m a mathematician. There’s got to be more than one solution path. Humor me for a second. My wife and I were chatting about this. (By the way, while she wants a fair contract, the scale is starting to tip. She really wants to be back in the classroom doing what she loves. Right now, like I mentioned above, she feels “identity-less.”)

      Anyway, I was imaging a situation where teachers taught their students, young and old, about the ills of the CPS machine, if you will, and subverted/fought from within with the help of the students’ parents. Imagine the inboxes, mailboxes and voicemails of CPS higher-ups being flooded with doubt and support for a fair contract from their main (I apologize in advance for the use of the word.) stakeholders. I know this may sound pie-in-the-sky and grassroots, and I know that this does go on in the form of letter writing campaigns and phone calls/e-mails to representatives, but it’s a slight twist to consider. The teacher still teaches, both curriculum and activism. But teaching is uninterrupted. Of course, it’s very easy to say all of this having never taken part in a strike.

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