MEDIA WATCH: 'Strike six! Strike seven!' Rahm's press myrmidons change the rules of 'news' for mayor's Rookie Year... Corporate press reports and commentaries on the morning of September 17, 2012 as the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 continues

Just so we don't lose the immediate responses of the corporate media to the continuation of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, Substance is going to stream a column every day with the "news" and analysis published in the bourgeois media. We will probably only include print materials because they are the most quickly accessible.


On the sixth day of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, some of the teachers at Steinmetz High School in Chicago took a break from the line to show their colors and art work for the camera. When the strike began its second week on September 17, 2012, the nation's corporate media showed it lacked both the intellectual and logistical capacity to cover a story as vast and complex as the Chicago strike. The photo above was one: more than 600 others could have been taken that day, each representing the teachers at one Chicago public schools. Democracy was also too big a challenge for corporate America and its pundits, with Karen Lewis refusing to play "union boss" to order "her" teachers back to work. Among the many imperial journals that go most of the story wrong was The Wall Street Journal, which continued to tell the story from the point of view of the city's tantrum-prone mayor, who said he was going to declare the strike "illegal" — and then ask "his" police to lock up 26,000 of the best educated public servants in Illinois? And the point of view of the "children." More children were on the picket lines than at the dangerous Children First schooly thingies pushed by the city and school board. One of the many ironies of the strike was that while corporate reporters dragged up as many angry parents (or new Astroturf groups) as possible, most of the "Children First" sites had three or four times more adults — each being paid full salary in a school system that said it was broke — than children. Substance photo September 17, 2012 by Sharon Schmidt. Chicago Teachers Strike: Union To Continue Industrial Action Into Second Week By TAMMY WEBBER and SOPHIA TAREEN 09/16/12 10:04 PM ET

Chicago teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, insisting they need more time before deciding whether to end an acrimonious standoff with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that will keep 350,000 students out of class for at least two more days.

Emanuel fired back Sunday night by instructing city attorneys to seek a court order forcing Chicago Teachers Union members back into the classroom. "This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children," he said in a statement.

Presented with a choice on whether to ask members to vote on a contract that union president Karen Lewis had at one point called "a fight for the very soul of public education," the union's 800-member House of Delegates told their leaders they needed more time to talk to the rank and file before ending the city's first teachers strike in 25 years.

Teachers had only a few hours to review a summary of a proposed settlement worked out over the weekend with officials from the nation's third largest school district. That wasn't enough time, they said, to digest a complicated contract that addresses two issues central to the debate over the future of public education across the United States: teacher evaluations and job security.

The union will meet again Tuesday, after the end of the Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

"We felt more comfortable being able to take back what's on the table and let our constituents look at it and digest it," said Dean Refakes, a physical education teacher at Gompers Elementary School. "We can have a much better decision come Tuesday."

That timeline, however, means the soonest classes could resume would be Wednesday. That frustrated both Emanuel and some parents, who learned late at night a week ago Sunday that a flurry of last-minute negotiations had failed to produce a contract agreement and that the strike was on.

"I think a week is a long time to be wasting time. Another week would be murder. I don't think it's right," said Beatriz Fierro, the mother of a fifth grader. "They should be back in school. I don't think teachers should be on strike that long."

Other parents continued to stand with the union. As teachers walked picket lines in the past week and rallied Saturday in a park near downtown, they were joined by parents who have had to scramble to find baby-sitters or a supervised place for children to pass the time.

"As much as we want our kids back in school, teachers need to make sure they have dotted all their I's and crossed their T's," said Becky Malone, mother of a second grader and fourth grader. "What's the point of going on strike if you don't get everything you need out of it? For parents, it'll be no more of a challenge than it's been in the past week."

Emanuel didn't appear at a brief news conference Sunday night with city school board president David Vitale, who said 147 schools staffed with non-union workers and central office employees would be open Monday for students who are dependent on school-provided meals.

But in a statement, Emanuel was typically blunt. He accused the union of using the city's students as "pawns in an internal dispute." He said the strike was illegal because it endangers the health and safety of students and concerned issues – evaluations, layoffs and recall rights – that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage.

"While the union works through its remaining issues, there is no reason why the children of Chicago should not be back in the classroom as they had been for weeks while negotiators worked through these same issues," he said.

The walkout, the first for a major American city in at least six years, canceled classes for students who just returned from summer vacation and forced tens of thousands of parents to find alternatives for idle children, including many whose neighborhoods have been wracked by gang violence in recent months.

With an average salary of $76,000, Chicago teachers are among the highest-paid in the nation. The contract outline calls for annual raises, but it doesn't restore a 4 percent raise that was rescinded by the mayor last year.

That upset many teachers, said union delegate Susan Hickey, a school social worker. But she said the proposal was ultimately one teachers – who are worried that staying out beyond mid-week will further upset parents – could support.

"Personally I think there's a lot of us who don't want to lose the parental support," she said.

Lewis said delegates weren't yet willing to go back to work while contract language was amended because of the level of distrust between the union and the city, and the fact the settlement on the table remains tentative.

"The trust level is just not there," Lewis said. "You have a population of people who are frightened of never being able to work for no fault of their own. They just don't have the trust."

Emanuel, who did not personally negotiate the deal but monitored the talks through aides, has pushed hard for a contract that includes ratcheting up the percentage of evaluations based on student performance, to 35 percent within four years. The union contends that is unfair because it does not take into account outside factors that affect student performance such as poverty, violence and homelessness.

The union also pushed for a policy to give laid-off teachers first dibs on open jobs anywhere in the district, which the city said that would keep principals from hiring the teachers they thought best qualified for the position.

"They're still not happy with the evaluation(s)," Lewis said. "They're not happy with the recall. They don't like the idea that people's recall benefits are cut in half."

The teachers walked out Sept. 10 after months of tense contract talks that for a time appeared to be headed toward a peaceful resolution.

Emanuel and the union agreed in July on a deal to implement a longer school day with a plan to hire back 477 teachers who had been laid off rather than pay regular teachers more to work longer hours. That raised hopes the contract would be settled before the start of fall classes, but bargaining stalled on other issues.

To win friends, the union representing 25,500 teachers, engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents repeatedly about problems with schools and the barriers that have made it more difficult to serve their kids. They described classrooms that are stifling hot without air conditioning, important books that are unavailable and supplies as basic as toilet paper that are sometimes in short supply.

The strike upended a district in which the vast majority of students are poor and minority. It also raised the concerns of parents who worried not just about their kids' education but their safety. Chicago's gang violence has spiked this year, with scores of shootings reported throughout the summer and bystanders sometimes caught in the crossfire.

"I don't like being on strike. Nobody in my school likes being on strike, but we understand the reason. It's not an easy process," said Michael Bochner, a teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary.

"My membership," he said, "really wants to go back to work."

[Associated Press writer Michelle Janaye Nealy contributed to this report.]


Mayor Rahm Emanuel will ask judge to end strike BY ROSALIND ROSSI, SANDRA GUY AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporters September 16, 2012 3:26PM

With Chicago Teachers Union delegates voting to stay on strike at least through Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel Sunday accused the union of using children as “pawns’’ and vowed to seek a court order to halt the walkout.

The announcement from Emanuel came about an hour after CTU President Karen Lewis said “a clear majority’’ of delegates refused to suspend the strike until they had seen the exact contract language of the entire deal — something not expected until Tuesday.

Delegates just didn’t trust Chicago Public Schools not to try to slip one over on them if they called off the first CTU strike in 25 years without more study and discussion of the offer, Lewis said.

“Please write ‘trust’ in big giant letters because that’s what the problem is,’’ Lewis said.

Emanuel responded by news release, saying: “I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union. This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children.’’

The mayor said he was instructing the city’s top lawyer — Corporation Counsel Steve Patton — to work with CPS’s attorney to file a Cook County Circuit Court injunction to “immediately end this strike and get our children back in the classrooms.”

He called the strike “illegal” on two grounds, claiming it is based on non-strikeable issues and is endangering the “health and safety of our children.’’

Emanuel last week claimed the union walked out over non-strikeable issues — but city officials stopped short of saying they would get the courts involved. That changed Sunday night after the union voted to stay on strike.

Union officials have insisted they have a clear right to strike over teacher evaluation procedures — one of the most contentious issues in dispute.

CTU attorney Robert Bloch said teachers contend that CPS wants to put too much weight on student test scores and other factors that are beyond a teacher’s control. However, he said, the union was able to ensure that 98 percent of teachers cannot be fired based solely on their students’ test scores.

Under the deal revealed Sunday, CPS would create a pool of highly-rated or vetted teachers from which principals must hire candidates. That marked a win for the system in its attempt to set some minimum thresholds for hiring.

The agreement also formalizes Emanuel’s signature longer day, stretching the elementary day from 5 3/4 hours to 7 hours and the high school day to mostly 7 1/2 hours.

Perhaps the biggest win for the union was the guarantee that qualified teachers would be able to follow their students to a new school if their current school is closed, consolidated or phased out.

Lewis said the fear the school board could close hundreds of schools was paramount to delegates’ desire to look over the contract language carefully.

“The big elephant in the room,’’ Lewis said, “is the closing of 200 schools”—a number CPS officials have denied.

“They [delegates] are extraordinarily concerned about it. It undergirds just about everything they talked about.’’

One delegate agreed the group wanted “something in writing to go on….We need more than just the bullet point break down.’’

“Our four percent raise that was supposed to be last year, we didn’t get it because of one sentence that said if they don’t have enough money in there, they don’t have to give it to us,’’ said the

delegate, who asked for anonymity. “How do we know that one sentence won’t be in this one?”

Actually, CPS officials said that financial opt-out clause that allowed the district to cancel last school year’s raise has been removed from the proposed contract, meaning promised raises would be guaranteed.

Lewis said the delegates would meet next on Tuesday, when contract language is expected to be completed and the Jewish holy period of Rosh Hashanah ends. She said union delegates wouldn’t meet again until Tuesday out of respect for the holy day.

That means, Lewis conceded, schools would not reopen until Wednesday at the earliest. That would stretch the strike into at least a seventh day of missed classes. The last strike — in 1987 — cost students 19 days of school.

Like Emanuel, School Board President David Vitale blasted the union’s decision not to end the strike Sunday.

“We will do whatever we can and whatever is needed to support our parents and our students. We all need to put our children first.”

Some 800 union delegates who make up the union’s House of Delegates gathered Sunday, with anxious parents wondering if they would vote to end the first CTU strike in 25 years.

But Lewis emerged just after 6 p.m. with the bad news — no class on Monday or Tuesday.

“They’re not happy with the agreement. They’d like it to be a lot better for us than it is,” Lewis said of the delegates. “No sides are ever completely happy but our members aren’t happy and they want to have the opportunity to talk to their members.”

The new deal provides three years of raises — at 3, 2 and 2 percent — with the possibility of a fourth year at 3 percent, plus extra seniority bumps for more veteran teachers.

New promises also were secured to hire more social workers, counselors and nurses if money becomes available, including from tax increment financing sources. Some teachers were adamant that such support services are critical for children surrounded by violence and poverty.

Other new ground included provisions to curtail “bullying” by principals and other “abusive” administrative practices,’’ efforts to guarantee students and teachers have textbooks on Day One, and an agreement to move to one school calendar, so that all schools start on the same day.

On its website, the CTU trumpeted in a news release that it had fought off an attempt to institute merit pay, something the union called “the star of national misguided school reform policies.’’ It

has been an approach pushed publicly by Emanuel.

However, both sides, in summaries of the contract, seized different issues to emphasize. Asked why the two summaries of the deal seemed so different, Lewis said, “they have a political spin machine.’’

Contributing: Sandra Guy, Lauren FitzPatrick


September 17, 2012 at 11:38 AM

By: Kim Scipes

The media's poor coverage of CTU strike

I am sick of the Chicago news media taking Mayor 1%'s comments at face value: they ignore the fact that the CTU has been negotiating since last November, and that all this phony posturing by Rahm is just that. Rahm doesn't care about the students--Rahm only cares about Rahm, and everything he says about the strike should be considered a lie until proven correct. The corporate newspapers--and the Trib is worst of all--assume everything he says is the truth, and then don't even check it out, before or after printing it.

September 17, 2012 at 12:49 PM

By: Larry MacDonald

Sam Zell's commitment to segregation in education

Holding out for support. Nope Clarence Paige just went over the edge... Somebody check out Zell's involvement in Fayetteville,NC Public School Re-segregation effort.

We know what's going on KEEP STRONG.

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