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Chicago teachers and supporters rally on Monday, September 10, the first day of their strike.
It's day three of the Chicago teachers strike, and now the teachers union and school system management are agreed that a contract agreement is not imminent. With the strike looking likely to continue, the SEIU local that represents custodians in some of the city's schools has filed a strike notice so that janitors can honor teachers' picket lines.

Management's strategy, as displayed in every public statement school system representatives make, is to simply try to make the teachers look recalcitrant and selfish—the unelected school board president described negotiations as "silly season," saying it's "time to get serious," both insults to teachers giving up their paychecks precisely because this is so serious. The union's description of negotiations was a little different:

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the day's discussions had centered on teacher evaluation and that "some substantial movement" had been made, but not enough.

"I don't want to get in the weeds, but I'd say we moved more than they did today," he said. [...]

"They basically dug in their heels and said if we didn't give them a comprehensive proposal, we didn't have anything to talk about," Sharkey said.

Both sides are being strategic in their statements, of course. But the union has made clear, repeatedly in public and private through months of negotiations, what teachers are asking for. Management's constant statements—free of specifics about their own proposals, at least in recent days—that the teachers are not being serious, are choosing this strike, aren't making real proposals, are intended to convey that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board will not be moving, that it is up to the teachers to give in, and that the teachers are therefore solely to blame for the strike. If this is the attitude they bring into negotiations, no wonder the two sides aren't closer to a deal.

Because teachers remain popular with the public, a favorite strategy of campaigns against their unions is to say "teachers are great, it's the unions that are a problem." (You'll hear that from Mitt Romney regularly.) But this strike is reminding us that teachers unions are made up of teachers. It is teachers in the streets, fighting for better schools. They are community members and parents and neighbors—maybe that's why a plurality of Chicago voters support them in this strike.

As one Chicago teacher wrote on Facebook, illustrating how intensely personal this fight is:

I'm a parent before I am a teacher; as such I am outraged at the conditions children endure while trying to learn (not to mention the baggage they bring with them from home). How does my son, with dreams of being an engineer, learn technology in a tech lab WITHOUT computers? What does a child do when they keep getting nose bleeds and/or headaches from the heat in their classroom? I am guessing Rahm and Jean-Claude's children don't have these problems.

Parents, I encourage you to look pass this brief inconvenience at the bigger picture. I fight for my children (the ones I birthed and the ones I teach); fights are never convenient or pretty. I ask that you use your voice to empower those that fight for your children everyday in the face of insurmountable odds instead of those that repeatedly put the bottom dollar and their best interest ahead of children.

This strike is the people in the classrooms every day trying to teach kids versus the education agenda of the 1 percent. Let Chicago teachers know you stand with them in their fight for educational justice and better schools.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Sep 12, 2012 at 07:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Your Government at Work, Occupy Wall Street, and Daily Kos.

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