Imagine if one day, in the middle of the week, you came to school and there were no teachers. Imagine if you did not have to go to school that day, or the next day. Imagine if you were not sure exactly when you would have school again.
It sounds like a pleasant dream, but this was a reality for 350,000 children in Chicago Sept. 10. Teachers in Chicago are members of a labor union.
The teachers went on strike due to a lack of agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel over wages, job security and teacher evaluations. The teachers voted to end their strike Sept. 19.
Teachers cannot go on strike in North Carolina. They are prohibited from doing so by Article 12 of North Carolina’s general statutes.
Principal Chris Blice agrees with this law.
“There are some fields where [striking] should not be acceptable, and I think education is one of them,” Blice said.
Civics teacher Roddy Story isn’t sure striking is a good idea for a different reason.
“I think strikes hurt the perception of teachers overall,” Story said. “I think most people don’t understand how hard of a job it is.”
But could a strike happen here? The general consensus among faculty members is no.
“Unions and striking are just not North Carolina things,” Spanish teacher Craig Frazier said. “I have a feeling very few here [at Northwood] would go on strike.”
English teacher Kari Haddy had a different perspective.
“Children deserve an education; therefore, you need to fight for their rights,” Haddy said. “At Northwood we have great working conditions, so it’s hard to understand that these things happen in other school districts.”
Blice and Frazier agree with Haddy that working conditions at Northwood are good, and they have the numbers to back it up. A survey of teachers in North Carolina called the North Carolina’s Teacher Working Conditions Initiative shows that teachers at Northwood feel that they have good access to materials, safety, allocation of time and administration. A comparable survey in Illinois known as the Illinois Teaching, Leading, and Learning Survey shows that teachers are consistently less satisfied with their conditions.
When asked about school safety, 91 percent of high school teacher respondents to the North Carolina survey agree that the conditions they work in are safe. Illinois high school teachers agree that they are safe only 51.2 percent of the time.
All of the teachers and administrators that were contacted responded that they thought very few teachers at Northwood would ever strike.
Frazier said, “Conditions [would have to be] beyond what I could imagine would happen here.”
–By Frances Beroset