By Michael Reed
Negotiations between teachers and Chicago Public Schools over a new contract to replace the one that expired in June are ongoing but were snagged on salary, health benefits, layoffs due to school closings or restructuring and teacher evaluation protocol.
In recent years, teachers have gone on strike in Tacoma, Wash., (10 days in 2011) and Detroit, Mich. (16 days in 2006).
There can be stark differences among labor laws that affect teachers across states. For example, 35 states allow teachers to collectively bargain, but variations exist over what teachers and schools may bargain. Rules establishing what may be collectively bargained (such as wages, benefits, or terms of employment) and strike protocol largely fall under state jurisdiction. It is illegal for teachers to strike in 27 states. However eight states, including Illinois, explicitly permit teachers to strike under certain conditions. The Illinois legislature passed an education reform bill (SB7) in 2011, which rewrote several rules for collective bargaining for Chicago teachers and the district, including allowing teachers and districts to collectively bargain:
- Class size, staffing, and assignments
- Length of the school day and work day, and academic year
- Student assessments
- Third-party contracting/Outsourcing
Additionally, SB7 establishes timetables and rules for impasses and strikes which include mediation and voluntary arbitration, as well as requiring three-quarters of a union’s members to vote for a strike.
NCSL maintains a Collective Bargaining and Labor Union Database that tracks state legislation on unions and collective bargaining. As the labor dispute between Chicago’s teachers and the school district continues on such a large stage, it will be interesting to see what, if any, legislative responses we may see from state capitols around the country.
Michael Reed is a policy associate in NCSL’s state-federal relations division in Washington, D.C. Michael specializes in labor and education issues.