Chicago strike: Parents support teachers, but for how long? (+video)
Parents in Chicago are marching with the city's teachers, but some wonder how long this support will last if children are forced to miss days or weeks of school because of the strike. The teachers union has made efforts to inform parents about their position.
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"Within a day or two, all parents are going to turn their ire toward the strike," Gonzalez said. "As parents see what the district offers and see the teachers not counter-propose, they will become increasingly frustrated with the grandstanding."Skip to next paragraph
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During the last Chicago teachers strike in 1987, Bill Werme and his wife got so angry they pulled their daughter out of public school and enrolled her in private school for second grade. Parents could face the same choice now.
"If it was me, my support would whittle away," Werme said.
Already, there are some parents who don't understand why teachers would not readily accept a contract offering a 16 percent raise over four years — far more than most American employers are giving in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Rodney Espiritu, a stay-at-home dad whose 4-year-old son just started preschool, said the low test scores he's read about suggest teachers don't have "much of a foot to stand on."
Chicago's history of labor strength is one reason why this dispute is seen as a test of organized labor at a time when unions' political influence is being threatened across the country.
"What you're seeing here is a massive show of solidarity that is as widespread as anything we've seen in decades," said Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
In a telephone poll conducted Monday by the Chicago Sun-Times, nearly half of people surveyed said they supported the teachers union, compared with 39 percent who oppose the strike. Almost three-quarters of those polled regarded Emanuel's efforts to resolve the dispute as average, below average or poor.
The poll of 500 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
On Tuesday, union President Karen Lewis said negotiations were still far apart, with the two sides having agreed to just six of 48 articles in the contract. She said it would be "lunacy" to expect an agreement before Wednesday.
In many ways, Chicago is the perfect place for teachers to wage this battle, Bruno said.
With an estimated half million workers in the metropolitan area belonging to a union and a full quarter of the workforce unionized — a percentage rivaled only by New York and a handful of other big cities, Bruno said teachers have the most sympathetic public they could hope for.
"I do think if you were going to craft or design a strategy and determine the geographical space with the right politics, the right values, you couldn't do better than Chicago," he said.