The Chicago teachers strike that began this week was the city's first in a quarter of a century, and its second day ended on Tuesday with little visible headway made for either the Chicago School Board or Chicago Teachers Union.
How long students have to remain out of class and what teachers will get out of the strike remain to be seen, but both sides can look back in history and see examples of gains, losses and the unfortunate impact of strikes on students. Here are five examples of teachers strikes in Chicago and elsewere, as well as what the striking teachers were seeking and what they got for their efforts in the end:
1. NEW YORK CITY (1968)
Why it happened: In 1968, a New York City teachers strike put classes on pause for 1,100,000 children for 36 school days, according to a Time Magazine article. The strike erupted from a confrontation over decentralization in Brooklyn's Ocean Hill-Brownsville district, and put the United Federation of Teachers, as well as racial and social issues of the time in the spotlight. The schools were in bad shape, and a battle for control involving parents, teachers and the Board of Education spiraled out of control, as a 1996 article in The New York Times explains. Teachers who were thought to be trouble-makers were moved from their positions by the board, and a fight over due process attracted the attention of the rest of the city.
The results: A 27-hour negotiation session eventually ended the strike, giving the Ocean Hill-Brownsville district a state-appointed trustee. Eventually, a 1969 New York law would be enacted, decentralizing the authority to hire and fire teachers, though that law was revisited in 1996 with the aim of re-centralizing that power.
2. CHICAGO (1987)
Why it happened: Chicago's last teachers strike began on Sept. 8, 1987, when 15% raise over two years, as a timeline from the Chicago Tribune states. 430,000 students were kept out of class for 19 school days,
The results: 1,700 staff members had to be cut to pay for expenses after the strike, according to a previous Tribune article. Nevertheless, teachers got an 8% raise over two years, as well as additional sick days and better health coverage.
3.TACOMA, WASH. (2011)
Why it happened: Judges in Washington state had ruled strikes to be illegal since 1976, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Still, the Tacoma School District saw teachers strike in 1974, 1978, 1991 and 2011. Teachers in 2011 objected to proposed pay cuts and wanted to see class sizes reduced, resulting in a strike from Sept. 13-22.
The results: After seven hours of negotiations mediated by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, an agreement was reached, and class-size limits remained the same. Teachers were, however, able to keep pay cuts in check, Reuters reported.
4. HORTONVILLE, WISC. (1972–73, 1973–74)
What happened: 88 teachers walked out on March 18, 1974, hoping to see pay increases of 16.5% for the 1974-'75 school year, according to an opinion piece that ran in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this week. The district fired 86 of them, and brought in replacements.
The results: Resentment from both sides cut deep into the local community, and in the end 51 of the striking teachers got jobs in other districts after Hortonville refused to budge. Even now, Wisconsin's largest teachers union will not negotiate with the district in Hortonville.
5. LOS ANGELES (1970)
What happened: A five-week teachers strike in Los Angeles began on April 13, 1970, due to demands for a top salary raise from $13,650 to around $20,000. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1989 that over half of the city's teachers stayed out of class while United Teachers-Los Angeles worked to get a contract.
The results: The teachers got a 5% pay-raise, which was what the district originally offered. They also gained advisory councils and reading programs. Teachers suffered in the short-term, however, sacrificing about $1,100 each in earnings for being on strike.
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