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Talks underway in Chicago teacher strike as Paul Ryan sides with Emanuel

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 11:18 EDT
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CTU President Karen Lewis via screencap
 
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The first Chicago teachers’ strike in 25 years, which has pitted teachers’ unions against the Chicago Public School District and the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel(D), is entering its second day. According to ABC News, officials on both sides of the dispute met in the offices of a Chicago law firm on Tuesday morning and settled some issues, but acknowledged there is a great deal of work still to do. Meanwhile, national officials like vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) weighed in against the unions and on the side of Emanuel and the city of Chicago.

“We stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” Ryan told a group of supporters at a fundraiser in Portland, Oregon. “If you turned on the TV this morning or sometime today, you probably saw something about the Chicago teacher’s union strike,” he said, “I’ve known Rahm Emanuel for years. He’s a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher’s union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”

Ryan is a political ally of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), who says he texts “scripture versus and campaign advice” to the young congressman.  Walker touched off a firestorm in 2011 when he stripped public employees’ unions in the state of their right to collectively bargain. Former congressman Emanuel (D-IL), for his part, earned the ire of many U.S. progressives as President Barack Obama’s first Chief of Staff, when he ran what many considered to be an ineffective and disorganized White House that failed to capitalize on the momentum of the 2008 elections and squandered two years of a majority Democratic House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Now, as Chicago mayor, Emanuel is in pitched battle with the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU), which is asking for smaller class sizes, air conditioning for classrooms that reach 100 degrees or higher in the fall and spring, more social workers to cope with the school district’s estimated 15,000 homeless children and other demands aimed at improving learning conditions for students and working conditions for teachers and staff.

According to a 2012 report compiled by CTU (.pdf), 160 public schools in Chicago don’t have libraries. Chicago class sizes are the largest in the state, averaging 35 to 40 students. This Chicago Public School District doesn’t provide any form of free public transportation to students, imposing additional budgetary hardships on families already in need.

Union opponents have been attempting to frame the debate as a case of greedy teachers demanding higher wages, but teachers say that their key sticking points are the issues of teacher evaluations and recall rights for laid-off teachers, according to ABC.

CTU President Karen Lewis said on Monday night that some progress in the negotiations had been made, that “We’re trying to move issues off the table. We still have a lot of work to do, obviously.”

Watch video about this story, which aired on Tuesday, September 11, and is embedded via ABC News, below:

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
 
 
 
 
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