Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This morning I wanted to write an account of last week's UFT Chapter Leaders' meeting but instead I have been listening to Chicago radio, reading blogs and of course Substance for any news on the strike. I believe this is a crucial point in labor and education history.

Reviewing yesterday's post reminded me that I copied a piece that was quite critical of where the Chicago labor dispute may be heading so today we offer a different view in the form of a comment in Substance from Jessica Marshall.  Ms. Marshall doesn't think the strikers can hold out for much longer however she states that the strike should be seen as a huge victory when put into context.

By: Jessica Marshall

Strike is a tactic; not a strategy

I'm disappointed to read here, and in a different article, the idea that ending the strike and eventually even accepting the contract is tantamount to selling out. The idea put forth by George S. that we stay out on strike for weeks and weeks is irresponsible and unrealistic.
Reminder: Our strategy is to build schools that Chicago students deserve and that respects the people who work in those schools. We do this through building unity with parents, students, community, labor and others.
Our tactic was to use a strike, withholding our labor, in order to push the Board to negotiate with us and move on their position. We also used the strike to strengthen our ties with the above mentioned coalition partners.
In many ways we have been successful. Public opinion is on our side, the contract proposal defeats merit pay, limits test scores influence on our evaluation, restores language from previous contract that the board threatened to remove, adds language to provide some, though limited, hopes of job security for displaced teachers, etc.
This contract is not the contract of our dreams. However, given the balance of forces and the current political realities this is an absolute victory for our union. In other cities around the country they are taking setback after setback and merit pay and other schemes are being shoved down their throats. We have shown through the strike that we can stand up to the deformers and slow down their agenda. We've inspired educators and the labor movement around the country to stand up.
Complete victory? Nope.
Good use of the strike as a tactic? Absolutely.
Now we move forward and continue to build our coalition and fight for our kids and our members. A strike is not the only tool in our toolbox and while it is effective it can also backfire and break the unity that we have built. We do not have a union membership committed to weeks on end of strike; while some do, most of my members certainly don't have that stamina. We will not enjoy endless weeks of parent support; especially as working class parents risk their own jobs and are struggling to figure out how to care for their children. Finally, do we believe that a judge will not grant an injunction? And if he does, is our union prepared to send our leadership to jail to defy the injunction? Are our members ready for this level of action? Is this even an appropriate step to take?
This is not a game; to push for a strike for strike's sake without an accurate, objective look at the balance of forces is irresponsible at best and dangerous for our union and the unity we have built.

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