BIG STRIKE authorization votes by unions in tough contract battles aren't unusual. But the recent 90 percent vote by members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to back a possible walkout was different--and it sets the stage for a contract showdown that will shape the battle to defend public education across the U.S.
Nearly 90 percent of the members voted to empower union leaders to call a strike--of teachers who cast a ballot, an incredible 98 percent marked "yes." Just 482 teachers--1.82 percent of the membership--voted against a strike authorization, but because of an anti-union law, union members who failed to cast ballots were counted as voting against a strike. Of 26,502 members eligible to vote, 23,780 voted "yes."
Facing a 20 percent increase in their workday and a proposed 2 percent pay raise, teachers, office staff and other CTU members sent the clearest possible message of resolve in their fight for what they deserve. The overwhelming vote gives CTU negotiators leverage at the bargaining table by allowing union officials to call a strike if necessary.
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