Chicago school strike is first of many challenges for Emanuel

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Meanwhile, districts also are struggling to implement the new teacher-evaluation system Chicago just adopted. Los Angeles schools are under a court order to come up with a plan after an education reform group sued. Baltimore’s system has spawned complaints that too many teachers ended up with unfavorable reviews, and test cheating scandals have erupted in some schools.

As he looks forward, Mr. Emanuel also faces questions about his aggressive style, which seemed to galvanize the teachers.

Early on in his term, he rescinded a 4 percent teacher raise and said students were getting “the shaft.” Then he tried to bypass the union to negotiate directly with individual schools over a longer day — an approach that may have ultimately fired up unions throughout the city.

“People have to come to the table and treat each other with respect,” Chicago Alderman Bob Fioretti said.

Mr. Fioretti suggested that the teacher strike could portend problems with firefighters and police contract talks, though those unions legally cannot strike. Police and fire contracts expired in June, and union leaders have indicated they intend to keep the talks out of the public eye.

“I believe all negotiations should be done at the negotiation table,” said Thomas Ryan, president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, who said issues include pay and response times. “We do not want to make this a public forum because I don’t think it helps either side.”

Don Rose, a veteran City Hall observer and political analyst, said Chicago mayors have a long tradition of “giving away the store to unions,” but Mr. Emanuel has to be careful not to try to demonize organized labor.

The mayor has to “cool the anti-union stance and make it financial, make it about taxpayers because police have a lot of support and firefighters have lot of support, even though they can’t strike.”

“Things like this are not forgotten,” Mr. Rose said. But Mr. Emanuel is “not a stupid man. He obviously will know how to recalibrate.”

Associated Press writers Hugh Dellios in Chicago and Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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