Chicago Teachers Union’s Strike Finally Ends

Posted by Olivia Grady on Thursday, October 31st, 2019 at 4:11 pm - Permalink

Today marks the eleventh day that over 300,000 students in Chicago have been out of school. The reason for the school closings is the Chicago Teachers Union. The union authorized a strike for more than 25,000 teachers, and the public schools had to close as a result. These schools have been closed since October 17th

The strike started after the union rejected Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s contract offer. The mayor’s offer included a 16% raise over five years for Chicago teachers. The union, however, wanted a three-year contract with a 15% raise in order to strike during the next mayoral election, according to the Wall Street Journal

Chicago teachers, however, are already well paid. Their average salary is almost $80,000, and these teachers earn more than teachers in New York and Los Angeles after the costs of living are adjusted.

Test scores of Chicago school children though are not higher than the rest of the country. In 2017, for example, only 30% of Chicago fourth graders performed at or above the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ (NAEP) level for mathematics, and only 27% of Chicago students in the Fourth grade performed at or above the NAEP’s proficient level for reading. For eighth graders in reading and math, the percentage for them was the same: only 27% performed at or above NAEP’s proficient level.

In addition to the increased salaries, the union wanted the district to hire thousands more support staff. The Mayor, however, only offered to double the number of nurses and social workers. 

According to Professor Katharine Strunk at Michigan State University, the union is focused on adding more teachers and staff to the schools so the union can grow its membership and increase its revenue from dues. For example, the United Teachers Los Angeles proudly announced that it added 1,000 new members during its 2018 strike.

Increasing membership for unions is particularly important after the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. That 2018 decision allows teachers to decide if they want to join and support a union or not. Prior to the decision, Chicago teachers still had to pay fees to the union even if they weren’t members. 

Comparing its 2019 LM-2 report with its 2018 report, the Chicago Teachers Union has lost about 1,000 members since the Janus decision. In addition, it is likely the union is not collecting as many dues from members even though they have raised dues. Its 2018 report only covers four months, but if one assumes that the rest of the year was similar in dues collection, the union is not collecting as much this year.

Thankfully, the Mayor and the union have reached an agreement and the strike is at an end but not before the Mayor agreed to paying the teachers during the strike by allowing makeup days.