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About that injunction

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By angering teachers with a motion for an injunction declaring the teachers’ strike illegal, Mayor Emanuel may have made passage of the proposed teachers’ contract even more difficult, said Rod Estvan, education policy analyst with Access Living [2].

If so, it would be just the latest in a series of mayoral moves that have backfired.

Teachers on the picket line are talking to parents about how you’d want to read a contract for a new home before you signed it – and about how the City Council failed to read the contract that privatized Chicago’s parking meters.

They also recall their experience with SB 7, the bill designed to make school strikes in Chicago impossible.  According to a union attorney at the time, language that “satobtages union bargaining rights” was slipped into the bill at the last minute, after negotiations had been concluded.

And of course they recall the 4 percent raise rescinded based on an obscure contract provision last year – while CPS voluntarily stepped up payments to city agencies by tens of millions of dollars.

“CPS’s spur-of-the-moment decision to seek injunctive relief … appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor,” reads a statement from the union.  “This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor Emanuel’s bullying behavior toward public school educators.”

From the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign [3]: “The delegates and members of the CTU have a democratic right and a civic responsibility to review the terms of the tentative contract agreement thoroughly before signing it.”

The Chicago Tribune argues [4]that teachers aren’t going to get a better contract.  But that’s impossible to say. They’re not going to get a worse one, though the Trib may wish for it [5]. There could be technical glitches that need to be corrected.  And there could be matters where union leaders have to go back and try for more.

Given reported problems with implementing the interim agreement to staff the longer day in Track E schools – not to mention reports of 100 or more school closings in the works – teachers certainly want to take a hard look at the specific language of job security provisions.  (The Emanuel administration’s taunts about school closings – a gratuitous act of one-upmanship – also helped bring these concerns to the fore, Fred Klonsky suggests [6].)

Emanuel’s move confirms the Tribune’s recent analysis [7] – the mayor’s approach to the teachers’ contract has suffered from the fact that his tactical repertoire is limited to attack mode, and also from his and his advisers’ lack of experience with collective bargaining.

To me it seems more like a p.r. tactic than a legal strategy – does he really want to put Karen Lewis in jail?  (During the Pullman strike in 1894, Grover Cleveland put Eugene Debs in jail – and John Peter Altgeld made sure Cleveland was never nominated for president again.)

For many teachers it boils down once again to respect – respect for the negotiating process, respect for the democratic processes of the union, respect for the legitimate concerns of teachers – respect they have found consistently lacking from the mayor.

It’s also about trust:  Teachers don’t trust CPS, a sentiment they share with many parents.  Indeed, CPS doesn’t seem to be an institution that fosters trust within itself, starting at the top: Emanuel clearly doesn’t trust his schools chief.

It seems clear that teachers trust CTU leadership including Karen Lewis.  Part of the reason is that the leadership trusts its members, and when they say they want to look the contract over before agreeing to it, they have a right to do that.