Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Idiocy of the Chicago Teachers' Strike

I'm a big supporter of teachers and unions. Normally, at least, I am. I am the son and brother of public school teachers. I was skeptical of the decision by the Chicago Teachers Union to go on strike, primarily because I was very concerned that, because it is so disruptive of parents' lives, it would erode the natural goodwill that teachers enjoy from the public.

My opinion on the decision to extend the strike, however, does not have any ambiguity: I think the decision to extend the strike is sheer stupidity, a spectacular failure of leadership on the part of the union, and political malpractice.

The decision on whether or not to ratify the agreement reached with the city will be made on Tuesday. There are 2 possible outcomes. 1) The decision is ratified, the strike is over, and kids go back to school on Wednesday. 2) The decision is not ratified, and negotiations resume, presumably on Wednesday.

Let's look at the most optimistic scenario under option 2. Let's say the talks resume quickly, and an agreement is reached quickly as well, say by this Friday. It's ratified by teachers over the weekend, and kids go back to school the following Monday.

This raises some immediate questions: if an agreement was reached so quickly, then why was the strike extended? Presumably the sides weren't that far apart. Did the teachers get a dramatically better deal than the first agreement? If not, then why did they extend the strike?

Public support for the strike is eroding quickly. The teachers' union is paying a high price in political support literally every day that the strike goes on. I've been following it closely, and although I don't know the very fine details, I highly doubt that the teachers will get a much better deal if they reject this agreement and negotiate for another one.

I also highly doubt that they will get a deal that is worth whatever they lose in public support. The union leadership has to be aware of this. So there is almost no chance that, come Tuesday, the union will reject the current offer, because the price of extending the strike is too great.

So there is a very high likelihood that the agreement will be ratified on Tuesday. Assuming that it is, what has the union gained from an extra 2 days of the strike? They will have pissed off more parents, but they won't be getting anything, because they could have ratified it over the weekend.

I've heard various explanations for why the agreement was not ratified, but none of them hold water for me. I find it bizarre that the union members needed more time to study the proposal. In this day and age, the details of the agreement should have been communicated to all of the members of the union within an hour of said agreement being reached. The union leadership should have known by the next morning whether or not their members would agree to it. Heck, they should have known that within a couple of hours.

There's almost no chance that the agreement will not be ratified on Tuesday. There's no reason why it should not have been ratified over the weekend. The union seems to be making Chicago parents wait for this ratification for no reason other than the failure of the union leadership.

As I wrote above, I'm a big fan of teachers. I had a fantastic public school education, particularly in high school. Which is why it pains me to see the Chicago teachers union basically shooting itself in the foot.

No comments: