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How to Break the Chicago Teachers Strike in 7 Days

Gary North
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Reality Check (Sept. 11, 2012)

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with. This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before." -- Rahm Emanuel (Nov. 2008).

He said that when he was President Obama's Chief of staff. Today, he is Mayor of Chicago. The teachers union is on strike. 350,000 students have no schools to go to. They are being looked after in churches and other private facilities.

If he were not a screaming liberal, he could solve this in 7 days. It requires a 30-day program to make it stick. Permanently.

Here is Dr. North's sure-fire 30-day remedy for any teachers' strike.


First, the Mayor cites the statement sent by Governor Calvin Coolidge to Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, in 1919 during the strike of the Boston police. "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time." That phrase made him famous nationally. The next year, he was nominated as Vice President by the Republican Party. He was elected in 1920. He became President when Harding died in 1923. He then oversaw the boom of the 1920s. His career rested on that telegram.

The public knows that this policy is right morally. Public employees are highly paid -- far higher than the private sector. They do not work as hard or as long as private sector employees do. They are protected from being fired. They get this in exchange for not striking. As soon as any public employees' union threatens a strike, it is fair game politically. The politicians can and should refuse to negotiate.

We are living in the last days of public employees unions. Their pensions are breaking city, county, and state governments. There will be widespread defaults. The way to escape is to declare bankruptcy. Voters have had enough -- more than enough. Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin legislature called the unions' bluff in 2011. They passed legislation outlawing union strikes. The state's unions tried to recall him in June, 2012. They failed. This is in a traditionally pro-union state, right next door to Illinois. The public employee unions are now a paper tiger. It is time to challenge them if they threaten to strike. All of them. Every time.


Second, he says that the city will hire up to 11,000 new teachers in 30 days, and will not hire any presently employed teacher in the future who remains on strike one week from today. There will be no exceptions. This was Reagan's strategy in 1981 when PATCO, the air traffic controllers union, walked out. He gave them a deadline, and he stuck to it. He replaced every worker who failed to be on the job on the deadline day. He broke the union. The voters were happy to see it go.

The Mayor then invites any unemployed certified teacher in the United States to send in a job application form to him personally. He places the form on his newly created blog. He tells them to send the filled-in forms to the Mayor's office, Chicago, Illinois. He says that the jobs will be granted at entry-level pay, that class size will be 33 to 1, and that the jobs are non-tenure-track jobs. He announces that there will be no future tenure-track jobs left in the city of Chicago. Any teachers who are willing to replace the fired teachers of Chicago will be given preference in the future, but that the school board reserves the right from this time on to fire any teacher who asks too much in pay.

There are something like 500,000 unemployed or barely employed certified teachers in the United States today. The White House estimate is 300,000 jobs lost since 2008, with at least 280,000 jobs at risk in 2012. The Mayor's biggest problem within 48 hours will be to sort through the mountain of job requests coming in to his office.


Third, the Mayor tells parents to look up the salary of each teacher who teaches their children. This information is online, but few people in Illinois know this. The Mayor promotes it: He reminds them that this is with four months' paid vacation, plus retirement benefits.

He should be sure to set up a site that shows what the retirement benefits are.

He says that this is the new policy for every employee of the city. There will be transparency. Anyone wishing to work for less, who has the same credentials, can submit a job application at any time.

See how the unions like this new policy: police, fire, etc.


Fourth, the Mayor emphasizes the student/teacher ratio in the city. At present, there are 350,000 students in the city. There are 29,000 teachers. This is a student-teacher ratio of 12 to 1. When I was in school, long before the days when the American Federation of Teachers had any clout, the average class size was about 33 students. The new classroom size for Chicago will therefore be 33 students. This means that the city will need a maximum of 10,600 teachers. But, just to have some teachers in reserve, the city will hire 11,000.


Fifth, one week and one day later, after the deadline issued by the Mayor for teachers to come back to school, every teacher who was not on duty in his or her class the previous day will be issued notification of permanent firing by the city's Board of Education. The list of these people will be posted on the Mayor's blog site.

The Board of Education will begin sorting through the job applications. This will not be necessary, however. In all likelihood, more than 11,000 teachers will have broken the picket lines the day before, and will be in their classrooms ready to teach.


Sixth, the Mayor on day 30 holds a press conference. He brings in the stack of job applications. It will be a very tall stack. It will probably fill several desks with piles of applications 3 feet tall.

He then announces to the public that the past pay scales were unfair to taxpayers. He repeats the statement of Calvin Coolidge. He says that no teacher in the city of Chicago will be kept on the payroll who joins any strike in the future, for any reason.

He tells the public that their children are going to be well taught, and that he will not tolerate any union action that threatens the continuity of teaching for the children of the city.


Seventh, he shows that the new pay schedule will begin to balance the school board's budget, which is estimated at $1 billion a year for the next three years. He says that the school board will bring the budget into balance.


Eighth, he announces a new policy. This new policy is that only 20% of the total school budget will be allocated to administration. At least 80% of the school budget will be allocated to the teachers and support employees like janitors. He then announces that existing administrators will either suffer massive pay cuts, or else they will leave the employment in the city of Chicago and seek employment elsewhere.

The new policy will begin in the following school term. He announces that any administrator who wishes to leave will be given a letter of recommendation, but that any administrator who fails to report for duty in the following August will be permanently fired, and a letter will be placed in his employment file stating that he refused to work.


This plan would end strikes on a permanent basis in the city of Chicago. This strategy will end the power of the American Federation of Teachers in every city or town that implements it. The American Federation of Teachers is a cartel, and the supply of available certified teachers who are unemployed is so huge that you might call these people the reserve army of the unemployed.

The American Federation of teachers is a paper tiger. It has no clout that is not given to it by boards of education. If the National Labor Relations Board seeks to sue a town, the town should simply say that it will not cooperate, and that if the state wants to shut down the public schools, that is the decision of the state.

At that point, school boards across the country should begin to promote homeschool public education based on the web. They would begin to promote the Khan Academy, which is free of charge. The student-teacher ratio for home schooling in high schools is easily 40 to 1. There are no disciplinary problems with home schooled students. For every home school teacher, the district can fire at least two high school teachers. Online education is as effective academically as face-to-face education in public schools. (

The school boards would begin to promote other free web-based teaching materials. They could get rid of expensive textbooks.

No school board would ever again be bullied by the American Federation of Teachers.

This strategy could easily break the teachers union. The teachers union does not have the ability to resist this. The board can go through the motions of negotiating, in order to keep the National Labor Relations Board happy, or at least silent, but the reality is this. No school board will ever again tolerate a strike. Every school board will increase class teaching sized 33 students per teacher in a classroom, or 40-to-1 online.

All school boards should cut the percentage of the budget going to administration to 20%. The rest of the money will go to the teachers, or the janitors, or the school buses, but it will not go to administration. The teachers will all get pay raises, even though class sizes increase. That will break the American Federation of Teachers, and it will break the administrations, which are not represented by a labor union. The administration is management, and therefore the administration is helpless.


All of this should be obvious, and all of it is doable. The fact that it is not done in every school district in America is indicative of just how weak school boards are, and how they can be buffaloed by an impotent labor union that is threatened by 500,000 ready-to-work certified teachers.

The American Federation of Teachers is a paper tiger. I have just produced a match. It is time to strike the match.

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