Chicago teachers vote to end strike

2012-09-19 12:12
Public school teachers cheer as they march on streets surrounding the Chicago Public Schools district headquarters. (AP, File)

Public school teachers cheer as they march on streets surrounding the Chicago Public Schools district headquarters. (AP, File)

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Chicago - Chicago school teachers voted on Tuesday to end a high-profile strike that affected hundreds of thousands of children and sparked an acrimonious stand-off with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, officials said.

Emanuel, formerly President Barack Obama's chief of staff, had threatened to seek a court order to immediately end the strike but delegates of the city's teachers union opted to suspend their action and return to school.

They "voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike" and send the contract to all 26 000 of its members for a ratification vote, the CTU said in a statement.

The vote was approved by a margin of "like 98% to 2", union president Karen Lewis was quoted as telling the Chicago Sun-Times.

The strike, the first of its kind in 25 years, has been especially awkward for Obama because the union was fighting Emanuel, who left the White House in October 2010 to organise his ultimately successful mayoral run.

A key issue in the strike was a new form of teacher evaluation that the union insists relies too much on student test scores and could lead 30% of its members - around 6 000 teachers - to be fired in up to two years.

Emanuel had claimed the strike was illegal because it concerns "issues that are deemed by state law to be non-strikeable", and because it "endangers the health and safety of our children".

Following the vote, it was clear that Lewis had not buried the hatchet with Emanuel.

"Yes, absolutely," Lewis told CNN when asked if she would still describe the mayor as a liar and a bully.

"He has said certain things, and he took away a four percent raise. That enraged members - especially because the money was there. It had been budgeted for by the previous administration," Lewis said.

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