Chicago teachers strike ends with a vote (+video)
Public school doors in Chicago will open on Wednesday following a settlement between the city and its teachers. Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel called the agreement, 'an honest compromise.'
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Unions lost battles recently in Wisconsin, where Republicans stripped public sector unions such as teachers of most powers to bargain, Indiana's decision to make payment of union dues voluntary, and the vote of two California cities to curb the pensions of government workers.Skip to next paragraph
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The strike had raised concern that the rift could damage union support for Obama and Democrats in the run-up to the Nov. 6 presidential and congressional elections. Teacher rallies drew support from other unions in Chicago from unions in neighboring states such as Wisconsin and Indiana.
Analysts said Emanuel was damaged politically by the confrontation, having alienated organized labor in a city with a long history of union activism.
"Rahm has been bruised by this fight, but he's still standing," said Harley Shaiken, a professor of labor studies at the University of California, Berkeley. "He may have to learn that using a bulldozer isn't the most effective tool to be used in all circumstances."
Some union delegates on Tuesday said they wanted the strike to end because they did not want to lose the support of parents inconvenienced by a long dispute. Parents scrambled to find alternative childcare during the strike.
"I'm so excited that my kids are going back to school," said Tiffany King, whose sister cared for King's 12-year-old child during the strike. "Every day I would tell my child, 'You'll be back to school soon,'" she said.
The contract that was agreed with Emanuel includes several compromises, including on his key demand that teacher evaluations be based on results of standardized tests of student in reading, math and science. Test results will be taken into consideration but not as much as Emanuel originally wanted.
"For the first time, teachers will have a meaningful evaluation system...Our evaluation system has not changed in 40 years while our students and the world they will live in and will work in has," Emanuel said.
Many Chicago public school students perform poorly on the tests. The union distrusts Emanuel, fearing he will use the poor academic record to close scores of schools now that the strike has been called off, leading to mass teacher layoffs.
"I hope he agrees to this in good faith and carries out this contract," Lewis said.
The proposed deal calls for an average 17.6 percent pay raise for teachers over four years and some benefit improvements. Chicago teachers make an average of about $76,000 annually, according to the school district.
Financial analysts have said the agreement likely will bust the school district's budget and could lead to its credit rating being downgraded, forcing it to pay higher interest rates to finance any deficits.