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article imageOp-Ed: Chicago teachers strike pits unions against old friends

By Larry Clifton     Sep 12, 2012 in Politics
Chicago - Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former top Obama aide, has locked horns with Chicago’s teachers union over issues like a need for teacher evaluations, taxpayer-funded benefits and the merits of a 16 percent pay raise.
Union president Karen Lewis, who has called Emanuel a "liar and a bully," has become an unlikely enemy for Democrats, who usually receive campaign money and votes from such unions.
The Chicago teachers strike has angered many affected parents and caused a rift between the teachers union and normally empathetic Democratic Party politicians.
With about 350,000 students suspended from school and their teachers parading around the streets of Chicago holding increasingly bitter protests, some are saying the union uprising will have consequences for Barack Obama.
If the president ignores the plight of 350,000 students and does nothing, parents and Independents may vote their disapproval of Mr. Obama’s handling of the strike in November.
However, if the president steps into the fray and attempts to upend the massive Chicago Teachers union over the strike, unions all over the country will re-brand Obama as anti-union.
In a third option, Emanuel caves to union demands, and this may be the best alternative for the Democrats Even so, it might upset Independents who feel Chicago's average teacher's salary of $78,000 per year plus generous benefits and pensions is more than fair.
But Mr. Obama could claim some credit along with Emanuel if the unions would get most of what they want. They are the Democrat's base.
But Then the question would become, 'Why did Emanuel allow a strike to materialize in the first place?' While it wouldn’t solve any of the preexisting problems, a cave by Democrats would in affect be a return to politics as usual.
While Emanuel claims there are only a few issues to be settled, Lewis says the two sides had agreed on only six of nearly 50 provisions of a new teacher contract.
Organized labor was defeated last year in Wisconsin where public sector unions lost bargaining rights on pensions but retained them on salary negotiations. Meanwhile, in another blow to union power, Indiana made union dues voluntary and two California cities voted to reduce pensions for union workers.
Lewis, a fiery union boss, organized the union walkout of 29,000 teachers and school staff in the country’s third-largest school district.
Chicago School Board President David Vitale, at wits ‘end, said that he wouldn’t return to the negotiating table on Wednesday unless the union “made a comprehensive proposal to resolve the strike.”
The massive union strike in Chicago, as Barack Obama's adopted home city, pits the U.S. president in a tough spot between his friend and former aide Rahm Emanuel, and the labor he is depending on to win against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
It is a lose-lose situation for students, parents and more than likely, a few top Democrats.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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