As the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike continues into its second week, 800 union delegates are preparing to vote on an agreement today. While CTU President Karen Lewis—who led the walkout on September 10—backs the speculative agreement, she admits that the delegates “very well could” vote against it and continue the strike indefinitely.
CTU delegates already voted down a proposal on Sunday that would have given teachers a 3 percent cost-of-living increase next year, a 2 percent increase the following year, and another 2 percent increase the year after that. If they continued teaching in the fourth year, they would have received another 3 percent increase. In total, teachers would have received a 10 percent cost-of-living increase over four years. Lewis also supported that proposal.
Why did the delegates undercut their leader and reject the proposal? Well, according to Lewis, it’s because the delegates “want to know if there is anything more they can get.”
Let’s set aside the fact that unionized Chicago teachers already make an average of $76,000 a year (the second highest in the nation and $24,000 more than the average Chicago resident earns) and receive an annual pension payment of $77,496 a year (upon retiring after teaching for 30 years) and retiree health coverage (a rarity in the private sector). Let’s also set aside the fact that only 15 percent of fourth-graders in Chicago are proficient in reading, that the high school graduation rate is just 56 percent, and there’s a 40 percent dropout rate. And let’s also set aside the fact that 40 percent of Chicago teachers don’t even send their own kids to Chicago public schools.
No, the teachers want more.
How much more? They originally wanted a 30 percent pay increase, which would have increased their salaries to about $92,000 a year. At least they gave up that demand and even suggested “settling” for a 16 percent increase, which would bring their salaries up to $88,000 a year, the highest in the nation. The current proposal includes a 17.6 percent pay increase over four years.
While we wait for the CTU to vote on how much more money they will make than the average Chicago resident, 350,000 students are going without an education. But this is all about the kids, right?