By Kyle Olson
CHICAGO – The Chicago Teachers Union is dying to go on strike. Its leaders have been hinting and talking and winking about it for months, and recent contract negotiations provided no glimmer of hope for any sort of compromise.
The union recently announced it will be holding strike authorization votes in city schools this week. The consent of 75 percent of union members is necessary to give union president Karen Lewis the authority to call a work stoppage on the eve of the new school year in September.
CTU leaders are openly calling for members to vote “yes.” But what if the vote falls short? Can we trust the union to be honest about the outcome? Will the votes be tabulated in the presence of independent witnesses to guarantee an honest result?
Will the media demand transparency in this all-important historic process? Or will it just accept Karen Lewis’s word about the vote totals?
Seventy-five percent is a tough majority to attain in any type of election. If union leaders claim 75 percent of members voted to allow a strike, they should be forced to prove it by making the ballots accessible to citizens and the media for a recount.
This historic process is too important – too disruptive – to be entrusted to activists bent on a desired outcome.
“Strikes aren’t good for anyone—not our members, not our parents and certainly not our students,” Lewis said in a statement.
If that’s the case, then why are Ms. Lewis and her colleagues going in that direction? Are Chicago teachers really willing to pursue a strategy that they openly acknowledge is bad for students? And how are we supposed to know if the vast majority of teachers really want to abandon their jobs in the fall? By trusting the word of the radical union leadership?
This election should be subject to close screening and observation by outside parties that can verify the legitimacy of the vote totals. If that doesn’t happen, nobody on the outside – including rank-and-file teachers – will have any real idea of the true outcome.
Open this process up to the public, Ms. Lewis. As President Ronald Reagan used to say, it’s always wise to “trust but verify.”