Chicago teachers vote to authorize strike

With Chicago's finances already a mess, the teachers union look to add to the misery by voting overwhelmingly to strike if they don't get what they want in negotiations.

The schools are $430 million in the red and are begging the state to make up the deficit.  But state government has its own headaches, operating without a budget since July 1.  Governor Rauner is trying to close his own deficit – at least $1.6 billion – and the two sides are so far apart that many state agencies have had to drastically cut their operations due to lack of funds.

Without an infusion of cash from the state, huge layoffs and other cutbacks will be necessary.

Chicago Sun-Times:

“Rahm Emanuel really does not need a teachers strike,” Sharkey said at a news conference to announce the results. “And what we’re telling him is if he doesn’t listen to us, that’s what he’ll get.”

But at this point in the proceedings, the 27,000 CTU members won’t likely walk off the job any sooner than May. That’s because state law requires one more time-consuming step for teachers and other school workers before they can legally strike, and getting to that step awaits a hearing on Jan. 21, 2016.

Sharkey chalked up the strong returns to continued cuts to public schools — and threats of even more from the cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools in February. Short $480 million in its current operating budget, CPS is looking to Springfield to fill that gap, or has said it’ll make up the difference with thousands of layoffs plus borrowing.

“I’m happy to join with the mayor and the CEO for the schools to go to Springfield to advocate for real revenue,” Sharkey said. “What they’re advocating for currently isn’t real revenue. It’s basically borrowing against the pension fund with no ability of paying it back.”

He said members don’t want to walk picket lines but will if they have to.

“We’re not going to take it lying down that there are just these big cuts, and we’re not going to treat it like a fait accompli that the only way they can do this is cutting,” Sharkey said. “Our members will not go to work if we have to, be in the streets of the city of Chicago to demand justice for our schools.”

Mayor Emanuel's clout has been severely diminished as a result of the continuing controversy over the shooting death of a teenager by a Chicago policeman, video of which was withheld for more than a year.  Calls for Emanuel's resignation are growing, and having a teachers' strike looming over his head is just one more straw to place on his back.

You can't get blood out of a turnip, nor can you get cash out of the empty coffers of state government.  It seems a certainty that by summer, the teachers will be on strike, and the entire school year next year will be threatened. 

Chicago and the state of Illinois are in a death spiral.  They've borrowed from Peter to pay Paul for so long that Peter has given up in disgust.  Now the only thing Paul is getting is worthless pieces of paper that say "IOU" on them. 

Maybe he can burn them to keep warm.

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