The Unwritten Story of Chicago’s Charter School Teacher Strike: Unions See Walkouts as Survival Tool

Mike Antonucci:

The Acero charter school network and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract early Sunday, bringing to an end a four-day teacher strike. It was the first strike of charter school employees in U.S. history.

This singular event garnered a great deal of press coverage. Several narratives were popular, which involved tying the strike to:

● the stalling of the charter school movement in Chicago and Illinois in general;

● the statewide teacher strikes last spring in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona;

● the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012;

● the growing union success in organizing charter school teachers; and

● a union show of force in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling.

The primary purpose of a strike is to extract concessions from an employer when other methods fail. The Acero teachers were successful in this regard, and so perhaps the strike was justified. But there are charters in 43 states and some have been unionized for years. Teacher unions have opposed charters since the first one opened in 1992. So why did the first strike occur in Chicago in 2018?

No reporter delved into that question.