Talks broke down between the Chicago Teachers Union and the public school board on Sunday night, heralding in the city's first strike in 25 years. There's nothing sudden about the decision. The two groups have been arguing over benefits and job security for months, and the Chicago Teacher's Union is making good on a promise they made at the end of August to strike if the city wouldn't meet their demands. "We're tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed," Karen Lewis, head of the Teacher's Union said at the time. "We have done everything asked of us, yet we continue to be vilified and treated with disrespect."
The numbers alone indicate that this is not a small labor dispute. On Monday, 26,000 teachers won't show up at school meaning that 402,000 students across the city won't have anything to do. As parents worry about what they'll do with their kids, officials say that they've made arrangements to watch the students. They'll also have to be fed, as 80 percent of Chicago's students qualify for the free lunch program.
Nobody disputes the notion that Chicago's schools need help. Within the city, only 60 percent of Chicago's students graduate, a troubling number especially compared to the 90 percent that schools in the suburbs see. Furthermore, the city's school system is running with a $3 billion deficit over the next three years, meaning that teachers can't expect an influx of resource to help them fix the problem. Blame for the strike will inevitably fall on Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, who was not present at the negotiations on Sunday. According to Lewis, all Rahm's been doing is being a bully and using swear words. But just because he's got an epic labor struggle on his hands doesn't mean Rahm should stop being Rahm, now, does it?