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Strike-ending 'framework' in place for Chicago teachers as Big Labor flexes muscle

Union influence may have waned, but organized labor planned to rally in Chicago on Saturday to support what appear to be two rare union victories in Chicago and neighboring Wisconsin.

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So-called “Cadillac” benefit packages negotiated by public unions have been widely blamed for fueling public debt at an unsustainable rate, sparking mayors and governors to debate the future of such benefit packages.

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Exacerbating that trend: Poor economic conditions, which have helped stir class resentment as private industry workers with stagnant wages compare their compensation to deals like the one now in front of Chicago teachers: a 16 percent across the board raise over four years.

The philosophical clash was evident in Wisconsin, too, where large-scale protests last year were unable to stop a new law that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public employees, laying the groundwork for Gov. Scott Walker – who also became the first US governor to survive a recall election – to steer the state from a $3 billion shortfall to a slight surplus in the span of a year.

On Friday, a Wisconsin county judge nullified the law, sending Mr. Walker calling for an appeal while unions claimed victory.

"As we have said from day one, Scott Walker's attempt to silence the union men and women of Wisconsin's public sector was an immoral, unjust and illegal power grab," Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, told the Associated Press.

The framework that will be presented to unionized Chicago teachers on Sunday reportedly includes steeper step increases in pay for tenured teachers, and it lays the ultimate fate of the teacher evaluation piece on the findings of a new city-union joint commission while putting some of the new evaluation standards in effect under the contract.

According to Chicago media, the deal would also add an additional annual 2 percent cost-of-living pay raise, while keeping class sizes at current levels.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, a former chemistry teacher who has become the face of public opposition to Mayor Emanuel, warned Friday that it’s too early to celebrate.

“Our delegates are not interested in blindly signing off on something they have not seen,” Ms. Lewis said, according to CBS News. “A framework is one thing. We think it’s a framework that can get us to an agreement, but we’re not quite there.”

But despite that caution, some union members flocking to the Chicago rally from Minnesota and other states were using words like “celebration” and “victory” to describe the result of the week-long strike, which was the first for Chicago teachers in 25 years.

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