Thursday. West Virginia teachers have not cooled off.

West Virginia schools were supposed to be open today after a one-day cooling off period.

They are still closed.

After a promise by the governor of a one-year 5% pay raise for teachers but no promises on the sky-rocketing cost of health care, the offer did not satisfy thousands of teachers who had already been willing to challenge the law banning strikes and had walked off the job last week.

In 2016, when the West Virginia legislature ended collective bargaining in the state, the current chaos impacting students, families and teachers could have been predicted.

The West Virginia law against public employee strikes and without a legal process to resolve differences, the 2016 law has come back to bite West Virginia’s political leadership in the ass.

Yes. Workers can always withdraw their labor.

Nobody can force us to work.

But the process of collective bargaining – including the right to strike – gives labor greater power to define and negotiate for their interests.

Illinois is a good example.

Prior to 1983 public employees had no state law that allowed for collective bargaining.

For years the state’s public employee unions rejected any collective bargaining law that included a ban on the right to strike.

In 1983 the environment had changed. Mayor Richard Daley, who had always opposed public employee collective bargaining because it undermined patronage, was dead. Harold Washington, who was pro-labor, was Mayor. Democrats controlled both state house chambers and there was a moderate Republican governor who also aligned with the state’s public employee unions.

Collective bargaining laws – including the right to strike – were enacted.

Guess what?

The number of strikes by public employees decreased because the right to collective bargaining gave labor a voice in the process.

The teachers in West Virginia have demonstrated great courage and militancy in the face of difficult odds.

But kids are not in school.

Teachers are not in classrooms.

And the political leaders in West Virginia have nobody to blame but themselves.


Quincy, Illinois teachers and staff ready to walk. IELRB posts state-wide current bargaining status.

DPS teachers

Teachers and support staff in Quincy, Illinois have been pushed to the point of establishing a strike deadline of November 20th if no agreement in collective bargaining is reached.

In its posting, QF (The Quincy Federation of Teachers) stressed that the issues are more than compensation, but what is best for students.

“Our negotiating team began these talks in late spring asking for limits on the number of students in each classroom and on caseloads, extended planning time and less paperwork, and meetings taking place outside of the work day,” the QF posting said. “With these items in place, teachers would be able to provide more individual attention to each student, as well as have time to plan and execute quality instruction.”

At the same time, QF said its members are asked to take on more responsibilities, but are not compensated, and the union sought a “fair wage” for hourly employees as a step toward attracting and retaining high-quality staff, providing high-quality professional development, and improving teaching and learning conditions.

“Our students deserve licensed staff and support staff that allow diverse learners to achieve their highest potentials,” the QF posting said. “The board is not listening to the union on these issues, and that is why we still do not have a contract.”

Bargaining status of all other Illinois school districts can be found on the State of Illinois Education Labor Relations webs site.

Chicago is a union town. Public schools and charter schools prepare for a shut down.


“The Chicago Teachers Union is the most democratic union in the country,” President Karen Lewis told the crowd at The Girl Talk with Erika Wozniak and Jen Sabella last week.

It wasn’t boasting. And it really wasn’t a criticism of anyone else.

She was responding to the Chicago Tribune’s laughable  editorial attacking the second time Chicago union teachers voted strike authorization. The Tribune compared the CTU to North Korea.


The clock is ticking on the strike deadline of Tuesday.

As a result of a law that the state teacher unions, the IFT and the IEA, supported, the CTU and CPS can only bargain and the CTU can only legally strike over salary and benefits.

It was the same law that requires the CTU to get no less than 75% of their members  to authorize a strike.

It was the same law that links teacher evaluation to individual student test scores.

And it undermined teacher seniority and tenure rights.

And that was the law the IFT and the IEA supported as, in the words of IEA Executive Director Audrey Soglin, teacher-driven reforms.

“They did us a favor,” President Lewis laughingly said. “It requires us to mobilize our members.”

Trust me. Lewis doesn’t think SB 7 did them any favors.

It is also why there is so much talk about the 7% pension pickup and the ridiculous claim by the board  and the Mayor that what they have so far offered is a pay increase when it is a pay cut.

But don’t believe for a moment that the discussion at the bargaining table isn’t about class size, support services and adequate staffing, no matter what the law says.


UNO union teachers prepare for first charter teachers strike in the country.

Meanwhile Chicago – the union town – is facing the first strike by charter school teachers in the history of the United States.

Teachers at the large and scandal-ridden UNO Charter chain voted overwhelmingly to strike October 19th if a contract isn’t agreed to.

The vote was nearly unanimous with 531 out of 532 unionized ACTS members voting to authorize a walkout.

Who was the one no vote? It doesn’t really matter, does it?

“Our members have overwhelmingly voted to send a strong message to management that they need to step up and do the right thing for our kids and our schools. Now it’s management’s turn to show their dedication to the employees they claim to value — and the students whose lives are in their hands,” Erica Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher at the Sandra Cisneros UCSN campus in Brighton Park and a member of the bargaining team told the Sun-Times.


East St. Louis teacher strike continues. Silence from the board.

East St. Louis

UPDATE – 10/9/2015 –

East St. Louis Federation of Teachers available to meet, but the district remains silent

Statement from the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers:

The union bargaining team is available to meet at any time to sit back down at the bargaining table and reach a compromise. The union side has been the only one to call for a meeting.  Since the strike began, the district team has not asked us to meet with them. In fact, Superintendent Culver has refused to make any counter offer or new proposal to end the strike. His priority needs to be on a compromise that gets our students back in school. The district team needs to come to the bargaining table with the authority to reach a settlement.

You can now use this link to donate to the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers Strike Fund and take a moment to sign this petition urging the Superintendent to negotiate a fair contract now.

McHenry board backs down on health insurance.


In what appears to be some common sense on the part of the McHenry, Illinois school board, they have reconsidered their decision to cut off health insurance.

We had reported earlier that a union member who had just given birth and was fighting cancer and on leave FMLA leave had her insurance coverage revoked.

I’m glad to report that the board has reconsidered.

This from the teachers union in McHenry:

As of this morning, the association received verbal confirmation that insurance for all members will be reinstated. Last night, members of the Board of Education reconsidered the path that had been taken on insurance and righted this wrong. We appreciate their willingness to change their minds and show a clear display of good will. That said, we truly appreciate the outpouring of support from our community as well. We cannot do this without you.

McHenry board cancels health insurance of striking teachers.

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Schools remain closed with no bargaining scheduled until Thursday in McHenry, an hour northwest of Chicago. By Thursday, McHenry schools will have been closed for one week.

The McHenry teachers are fighting to preserve their salary schedule.

In a heavy-handed move that can only be described as cruel and heartless, the board has cut-off health insurance to the striking teachers.

We have saddening news to share with all of you. While we as teachers understand and accept the risks involved with a strike, there are several teachers that have not participated in the process due to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The School Board chose to cancel all of our Health Insurance policies (including those on FMLA) as of October 1st. This is truly disheartening for our members. For those out on FMLA, this is devastating. One of our members is currently fighting the battle of her life against breast cancer. She discovered this disease while pregnant with her 3rd child. She chose to fight for herself and her child, finding a way to fight the cancer and save the life of her baby. This situation has a tragic sense of irony as the School Board chose Breast Cancer Awareness Month to cancel her insurance plan. She gave birth to a healthy beautiful baby girl on October 2nd. Her fight continues.

We understand that this negotiation procedure is emotional and challenging for all stakeholders. But, there is no need to lose our humanity in the process. We had hoped that compassion and understanding would win out. We ask the board to reconsider penalizing those staff members that are on FMLA.

What many board members fail to realize is that often times strikes happen. It is a part of the collective bargaining process.

Unless their objective is to bust the union rather than come to a fair agreement, then the strike will be settled at some point, hopefully soon.

Actions like cutting health insurance will only poison the atmosphere between the teachers and the board for years to come.

McHenry teachers are still out. A rare part of collective bargaining.


McHenry teachers and their board still couldn’t reach agreement last night.

Today will be day four of their strike.

This is the second strike this year in the Chicago area that I have supported by walking the lines. There are others, like in East St. Louis, that are too far for me to get to. And it seems like there are others in the pipe line.

Many retired union teachers do this kind of strike support and, trust me, it is appreciated.

My blog post from Sunday has been reposted by McHenry teachers and others around the state. That pleases me, since that is what this blog is for.

As I was driving the hour back to Chicago from McHenry on Sunday I had time to think about unions, collective bargaining and how impressive classroom teachers are as organizers.

This is important in light of the possibility that the US Supreme Court may rule against our rights to Fair Share and agency fees very soon.

I was impressed, but not surprised, at how well organized the McHenry teachers are. It reminded me so much of the strike our local had back in 2003. Organizing ourselves is what teachers are trained to do. And we do it well. Collectively, we have every skill needed to run a strike.

And although teaching is often a solitary act of one teacher with a group of students, it has gotten less and less so. Working in teams has become more and more a feature of teaching.

Collective bargaining, including strikes, is a team sport.

To preserve and improve their salary schedule and to guarantee it for future teachers McHenry teachers voted to strike and do whatever it takes to come to a fair agreement.

No Supreme Court ruling about agency fees will matter if our union leadership remembers that.

What Bruce Rauner and the union-bashers need to remember is that before we won the right to collective bargaining in Illinois thirty years ago, there were far more strikes than there are now.

The right to collectively bargain a contract brought a period of relative labor peace to school districts around the state.

Undermine that right and more teacher strikes are inevitable.

And teachers know how to do it well.

We drove to McHenry this Sunday to support striking teachers in District 156.

It is an hour drive to the town of McHenry where high school teachers are on strike. A more organized and enthusiastic group of teachers would be hard to find.

At noon there was a rally to demonstrate support for the bargaining team. Speakers could barely be heard over the constant honking of supportive drivers rushing past.

The bargaining team and the board are meeting today, Sunday.

The team is hopeful and optimistic that they will be teaching tomorrow morning.

The issue, which seems to be the cause of most of the growing number of teacher strikes in Illinois, is the board trying to mess around with the salary schedule. McHenry Education Association leaders are holding fast on protecting their younger members and future teachers from being punished on the schedule.






Video and photo credit: Fred Klonsky