Monthly Archive: September 2012

Sep 23

Reflections on the Chicago Teachers’ Strike

This past Wednesday, an overwhelming majority of delegates for the Chicago Teachers Union (“CTU”) voted to end the union’s ten-day strike.[1] The strike was the CTU’s first in over twenty-five years,[2] and many spectators believe it has fundamentally changed the national conversations about education policy and labor alike.

The negotiations that have paved the way for a new contract between the city and the CTU led both parties to make concessions. The teachers did not receive as substantial a raise as they had hoped, but they successfully resisted several significant changes that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to impose, including a new teacher evaluation program, and they instituted a new recall policy for top teachers who are laid off as a result of school closings.[3] Mayor Emanuel counted his efforts toward implementing a longer school day among his successes during the negotiations.[4] Although the CTU President, Karen Lewis, has expressed some dissatisfaction with the substance of the new agreement, she regards the strike as successful and anticipates that the delegates will approve it during the coming weeks.[5]

As the Chicago teachers’ strike drew to a close, many questions remained unanswered. Some continued wondering whether the essential questions underlying the dispute, like the propriety of tying teacher evaluations to students’ standardized test scores or the specter of increasing competition from charter schools, were adequately resolved. Because both the city and the union made concessions in the new contract, others queried who “won.”[6] One facet of the strike that especially captured the popular imagination is assessing what impact this strike will have during these crucial weeks leading up to the presidential election,[7] especially in view of President Obama’s conspicuous silence during a dispute that has special salience for the President.

Because the Chicago public school system is the third-largest in the country,[8] onlookers have viewed this strike as something of a referendum on the troubled state of public education and the continuing role of public sector labor unions.[9] In light of the ongoing fight between Wisconsin public employees and Governor Scott Walker, it is perhaps not an exaggeration to say, as Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union did, that the strike in Chicago was an “epic battle.”[10] Labor leaders like Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, have applauded the teachers, emphasizing that they have the right to reframe the conversation about education policy because of their unique perspective on what kinds of change are necessary to improve education.[11] It seems likely that the CTU will galvanize teachers’ unions across the country in speaking out on behalf of their needs and the best interests of students as the debate about education policy grows ever fiercer.

 


[1] Monica Davey & Steven Yaccino, Teachers End Chicago Strike on Second Try, N.Y. Times, Sept. 18, 2012, at A1.

[2] See id.

[3] Ellen Jean Hirst & Jennifer Delgado, It’s Back to School Again for Chicago Students, Chi. Tribune, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-09-19/news/chi-todays-assignment-seal-deal-with-chicago-teachers-20120918_1_chicago-teachers-union-chicago-students-first-day.

[4] Davey & Yaccino, supra note 1.

[5] Id.

[6] Valerie Strauss, Who Won the Chicago Teachers Strike?, Wash. Post, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/who-won-the-chicago-teachers-strike/2012/09/18/974b5efa-020b-11e2-b257-e1c2b3548a4a_blog.html.

[7] See Lyndsey Layton, Peter Wallsten, & Bill Turque, Chicago Teachers Strike Places Obama at Odds with Key Part of Political Base, Wash. Post, Sept. 11, 2012, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/chicago-teachers-strike-places-obama-at-odds-with-key-part-of-political-base/2012/09/11/df89a776-fc2a-11e1-b153-218509a954e1_story.html.

[8] Davey & Yaccino, supra note 1.

[9] Monica Davey & Steven Greenhouse, School Days Resume in Chicago as the Lessons from a Strike Are Assessed, N.Y. Times, Sept. 19, 2012, at A19.

[10] Layton, Wallsten & Turque, supra note 7.

[11] See id.

Sep 23

16th Annual Management Lawyers Colloquium

On September 13th, 2012, the Center for Labor & Employment Law held it’s 16th annual Management Lawyers Colloquium.  The panelists included: Christine Hogan, an associate at Littler Mendelson; Steven Johnson, Group Director of Labor Relations, Northeast Region, at Coca-Cola; Terry O’Neil, partner at Bond, Schoeneck & King; Howard Sokol, partner at Holland & Knight; Evan J. Spelfogel, partner at Epstein, Becker & Green; and Richard Zuckerman, partner at Lamb & Barnosky.  The topics covered included the issues management-side attorneys and employers face when dealing with social media in the workplace, navigating and keeping employers in compliance with the NLRB’s advice on social media issues, the challenges associated with advising management-side clients in both the public and private sectors, the pros and cons of practicing labor and employment law, and how to break into the labor and employment law field. 

Also announced at the event was the winner of this year’s Jackson Lewis scholarship for Excellence in Labor and Employment law, in memory of Alan C. Becker, May Mansour ’14, and the inaugural winner of the Cesar Chavez Memorial Scholarship, Amanda Jaret ’13. The panel discussion was followed by a dinner for all those in attendance.

Sep 15

Checking: Is There Potential for Unintended Ramifications from the NHL Lockout Challenge?

The last few years have been active for those interested in labor-management relations in the world of professional sports.  Last year saw the lockout of NFL players and a delay of the NBA season because of a breakdown in negotiations.  Only the MLB and the MLB Players Association seemed able to amicably negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

This year’s conflict has been the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for players in the National Hockey League (NHL).  The current agreement was set to expire at midnight Saturday.[1]  While the parties have continued discussion in recent days and weeks, it has been reported that they remain far apart on compensation and revenue sharing[2], the two central issues in the negotiations.[3]  Now it appears the parties have ceased the bargaining process altogether.[4]  The players have stated they would gladly continue to play while a new agreement is negotiated[5], however, the owners have already voted to implement a lockout if a new agreement is not reached today.[6]

During previous lockouts in other sports, the union and its player-members have attempted to find ways around the lockout in an effort to ensure the players continue to receive paychecks while an agreement is being negotiated.  Last year NBA players attempted to decertify their union, which would have allowed them to bring an anti-trust claim against the league to end the lockout.[7]  Now, the NHL Players Association (NHLPA), along with a number of players, is attempting to partially block the lockout through an application filed with the Quebec Labor Relations Board.[8]

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Sep 13

Book Review: Bargaining With Baseball

When I first picked up Bargaining with Baseball: Labor Relations in an Age of Prosperous Turmoil by Professor William B. Gould IV[1], I expected to read a textbook about the history of labor relations in baseball.  By the end of the book, I realized I had read a textbook about labor relations in baseball.  But I had also read a history of the game itself, a primer on the business side of baseball, and a love story about a country and its oldest pastime.  In Professor Gould, I had found a kindred spirit who wanted to share not only knowledge, but also his passion about the topic.

I am a sports fan.  I love a good college basketball game.  I get drawn into football games, trying to figure out the next move the offense will make.  But nothing draws me in like a baseball game.  And I’m not quite sure why.  I love the crack as the ball hits the sweet spot of the bat and the sound of a 95-mph fastball cleanly landing in the catcher’s mitt.  I love the green grass of the outfield and the anticipation of watching the infield turn a double play.  I love yelling at the TV or yelling, “Charge!” when I’m in the stands.

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Sep 13

Welcome!

Hello everyone and welcome to the St. John’s University School of Law’s brand new “Labor and Employment Law Forum.”  This is the official blog for the Center for Labor and Employment Law.  Please feel free to peruse our site, come back often, and check out all of the new and exciting things happening with the Labor and Employment Law Society and the Center for Labor and Employment Law!

Comments, feedback, and questions regarding this site may be sent through the “Contact Us!” page.

Enjoy!

 

-Alyssa Zuckerman, Co-President of the Labor and Employment Law Society