The seriousness of Rahm Enanuel versus the silliness of Karen Lewis

Karen Lewis thinks serious negotiation on the Chicago teacher strike is the silly part of her day. Photo: Peter V. Bella

As she left the rally, Lewis told the crowd “I’ve got to go back to the silly part of my day. … Y’all continue to have fun. Show each other some love.” 

“They were told to keep going and have a party and have fun — to have fun while 400,000 kids are out of school that they should have been teaching,” Vitale said. “This is not the behavior of a group of people that are serious about the interests of our children. It is time to get serious.” (Chicago Tribune) 

CHICAGO, September 12, 2012— 400,000 children are out of school. Karen Lewis thinks negotiating is the “silly part of her day” David Vitale is right. It is time to get serious. It is time to end the strike.

Karen Lewis made her point. She got her strike. People saw the power play and symbolism for what it really is. 

This will be day three of the Chicago teacher’s strike. No matter how serious School Board president David Vitale wants the negotiations to be, this is Karen Lewis’ party. She is having a good time basking in the media glow.

No one invited Vitale to the party anyway. 

This is a clash between the Titan, Mayor Rahm Enanuel, and the brash personality, Karen Lewis. It remains to be seen if the brash personality will win over the Titan. It is a clash because of Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio, and other places where politicians are trying to run efficient, fiscally responsible, productive, and results oriented governments.   

The whole nation is watching Chicago right now. They are watching Karen Lewis. She is this weeks star and guiding light. That is what this strike is about. It is all about Karen Lewis. 

Several thousand people turned out for a rally and love fest in front of the Chicago Public School System headquarters in downtown Chicago. When Lewis showed up she was cheered, loved, and adored. Up close and personal Karen Lewis is a very pleasant person.

But, when she gets a microphone in her hand and cameras in her face she turns into an old time union firebrand. She is a master theatrical orator. She becomes a personality. She had the crowd in the palm of her hand. 

It appears from the signs and talking to several teachers at the rally there is a disconnect between what they claim they want and what their union is actually negotiating. The teachers want the sun, the moon, and the stars. Karen Lewis wants a seat at the table with Rahm Emanuel, the power brokers in Chicago, and on the national level.

She, like the national teacher unions want to keep the old, tired, status quo. They want power with no any responsibility or accountanbility. 

There are 49 issues on the table. Only six of them have been resolved. The major sticking points are teacher evaluations, which were reformed for the first time in forty years. Another is the method of hiring displaced teachers, or not. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel insists this strike could have been avoided. He is wrong. Lewis wanted this strike. The national teacher unions wanted this strike. This strike is a political statement not a labor tactic.

When Wisconsin unraveled on public labor unions Chicago was the next step in public education labor war on taxpayers. 

There are reports that Mayor Emanuel is exploring possible legal avenues to end the strike. It is reported he will try to obtain a court injunction forcing the teachers back to work. It appears city attorneys found a loophole that may make the strike illegal. 

Legal scholars and labor experts have mixed feelings about the injunction as a matter of law and a tactic. If the court issues an injunction, forcing the teachers to go to work there will be a great deal of ill will, but Karen Lewis will have lost.

If the court does not issue the injunction, and Lewis is confident on her legal standing, Emanuel will have lost. 

Between Lewis and Emanuel face is very important and neither one of them will lose face over this. Loosing is not an option. Neither is failure, except in the public schools where teachers earn $76,000 a year paychecks and the children are not receiving an education. 

This strike is not about the teachers. It is not about the kids. Teachers unions do not care about the children. Kids do not vote. Kids do not pay union dues. Kids do not pay off politicians with campaign bribes, oops contributions.

This strike is about the future of public employee unions. This week Chicago is Ground Zero in the battle. 

If the Chicago Teachers Union does not win in Chicago there are not very many places left that will garner national and international attention for public employees. 

Karen Lewis is playing a game of chicken.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has the reputation as a tough, hard as nails, get it done by any means necessary kind of operator. Lewis is known for her rhetoric and the solid unity she forged within the union. 

At the end of the day there may be no winners. The kids will lose. The parents will lose. The taxpayers will lose. Maybe Lewis and Emanuel will save some face and move on. Don’t count on it. Emanuel did not start this fight. He will finish it and he will win, eventually. Not immediately. But in the long run he will win. His ruthless record speaks for itself. 

It is a pity children have to suffer over the egos of adults who are supposed to be there for them. 

Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur.  He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys.  His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists. 

pvbella@gmail.com 

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Peter Bella

Peter Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance photographer, freelance writer, budding videographer, and passionate cook.  He aims to be the sharp stick that pokes and annoys.  The Middle Class Guy is a political column written from a center-right point of view.  While concentrating mainly on politics he will stray into culture, entertainment, sports, cooking, and humor from time to time, along with Memories of things Pabst.  All from a middle class perspective.

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