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Teachers Strike Notebook 6

We are seeing in the coverage of the decision by the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates to take the city's latest contract offer back to the rank-and-file so they can actually read it carefully and provide input the importance of the media's ability to recognize political framing and reject it in favor of independent reporting instead of becoming the toadies of those in power who spend a lot of money on consultants to create such narrative devices.

As it did earlier in the negotiations when it falsely claimed an agreement was near, the city created a sense that the contract was a done deal but for dotting i's and crossing t's, as the media dutifully reported. The effect is to make the CTU look like it is now stubbornly stalling or, as the Tribune argues, holding out for an even "sweeter deal."

The Tribune fails badly in reading and listening comprehension. They begin their editorial today this way:

On Friday, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis sounded ebullient when she announced that the union had reached a tentative deal with Chicago Public Schools officials. The union leader, hailed by some as a national labor hero, said she was "very comfortable" with the terms. "We think it's a framework that will get us to an agreement."

Memo to the Trib: A "framework that will get us to an agreement" is not the same thing as an agreement.

The Tribune, like many of its media colleagues, argues that teachers should go back to school while the final details are worked out. There are two problems with this argument: 1) It won't be clear if only "details" remain until teachers report back to their leadership. Democracy! And 2) The Tribune doesn't seem to understand the point of a strike - it's the last but biggest and baddest piece of leverage workers have. You can't suspend a strike and hope to continue negotiating on equal footing. And once returned to the classroom, teachers aren't going to go out again; nobody in their right mind would go back before contract terms are put to rest.

The union has asked for two days for consideration - remember, today is Rosh Hashanah. That isn't unreasonable, and like so many have pointed out, it's the kind of consideration the Tribune chides the city council for not taking the time for when it comes to, oh, let's say 75-year parking meter leases.

I doubt a single member of the Tribune editorial board would accept a new contract without reading it. If so, give me a call and I'll send one out for your signature.


I admit that I, too, was initially taken back by the union's decision. My first thought was that the CTU might squander the good will it had built up by frustrating parents and appearing recalcitrant.

And then I realized that the city, abetted by the media, had once again set up false expectations instead of clarifying and emphasizing the union's process and all the possibilities.

The problem here is also a consistent one: The media tends to use the official view as the starting point in almost all of its coverage on any topic. This gives a tremendous advantage to those in power; their megaphone is only amplified by a media whose job is instead to mute it in favor of - excuse me - fair and balanced reporting. Instead, the views of those who oppose the official frame aren't evaluated equally but instead are diminished and attributed to "critics" who are something less than "officials."

In this case the union somehow shouldn't be allowed to let its processes work because, well, because we don't have time for careful consideration of a four-year contract! Of course, this would all be moot if Rahm Emanuel hadn't been stubborn and recalcitrant, but the media frame rarely works that way. He is right until proven wrong under this construct. Excuse me while I go feed the meter.

Chicken Joe Moreno
New media specialist Kenzo Shibata says it so I don't have to:

Chicago Teachers Union Delegates voted to extend the strike until Tuesday, giving members time to review the tentative agreement before voting on it.

Chicago is the city of the parking meter deal where aldermen voted to privatize parking meters before reading the deal, leading to everyday Chicagoans paying millions to park over the course of a 75-year deal. Teachers knew to read their deal before signing.

And now, one alderman in particular, Joe Moreno of the first ward, sent out this e-mail lambasting CTU leadership for continuing the strike.

He blames CTU President Karen Lewis for the delay, but it was the democratically-elected delegates who made the decisions to take the TA back to their members to consult before making a decision.

This is the same alderman who is attempting Chicago machine style zoning maneuvers to block a Chick-Fil-A in his ward.

To this date, he has yet to survey the ward over their feelings in this matter.

Just last week, Joe was on Fox Business News blaming union leadership for the strike and agreeing with the Fox News host when she suggested "blowing up" public schools.

It appears that he governs through search engine optimization. When Chick-Fil-A was trending, he was passionate about it. When Chicago Teachers Union Strike was trending, he found passion in it.

He was not so passionate when 20 teachers were fired at one school in his ward. They were fired by no fault of their own.

However, he did brag about the change in program at the school on the Huffington Post that arguably led to these firings.

Joe is known as the hipster alderman.

He is @alderman_moreno on Twitter.

I'm just saying, but you didn't hear it from me.

Karen Lewis Explains It All
Reconvening on Tuesday.


Injunction Fails
"Lawyers for Chicago Public Schools were rebuffed today in their hopes of winning a temporary restraining order and immediately ending the teachers strike," the Tribune reports.

"A Cook County Circuit Court judge did not agree to hold a hearing on the matter today."

Rahm wasn't available for comment because he was busy in his office screaming "Dead! Dead! Dead!" while stabbing a picture of the judge.

From the CTU:

"CPS' spur-of-the-moment decision to seek injunctive relief some six days later appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor. This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor Emanuel's bullying behavior toward public school educators. As teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians continue to fight to make our city's public schools stronger, the mayor, CEO Brizard and members of the board want to trample our collective bargaining rights and hinder our freedom of speech and right to protest."


See also:
* Teachers Strike Notebook 1: Textbooks and A/C.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 2: Obama vs. Sveum.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 3: Nickelback and Numerology.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 4: Astroturf and Optics.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 5: Rahm Hates Research.


Comments welcome.


1. From Steve Rhodes:

That opening is incredibly long, and there's another couple rough spots, but I'm too tired to go back and fix. I have at least one antecedent problem. Just read slowly, it will all make sense!


Posted on September 17, 2012

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