Hess said the Chicago strike has become an important test case after unions lost their effort to recall Wisconsin’s governor.
‘‘If it looks like the union folds, especially on the heels of Wisconsin, it’s a huge blow for the unions,’’ Hess said. ‘‘If the union seems to win, that’s going to be a blow to reform-minded mayors and puts some wind into the sails of unions.’’
There are major differences, though, between the cases in Wisconsin and Chicago.
While Walker effectively challenged public employee unions’ collective bargaining rights, both sides in Chicago have been negotiating over traditional labor-management issues. The district proposed a 16 percent raise over four years and the two sides have essentially agreed on a longer school day. But job security and a new teacher evaluation system remained in dispute.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said the union didn’t want to strike, but did so only as a last resort after negotiations ‘‘that left CTU members feeling disrespected.’’ Among the issues she cited was the mayor’s decision this year to strip teachers of an agreed-upon 4 percent raise.
‘‘This is a long-term battle that everyone’s going to watch,’’ said Eric Hanuskek, a senior fellow in education at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. ‘‘Other teachers unions in the United States are wondering if they should follow suit.’’
Teacher unions also are growing nervous about how they are portrayed in an upcoming Hollywood movie called ‘‘Won’t Back Down,’’ set to open in theaters on Sept. 28. The film tells the story of a mother’s quest to take control of her daughter’s failing elementary school.
Weingarten has blasted the movie as ‘‘using the most blatant stereotypes and caricatures I have ever seen’’ and unfairly blaming unions for the nation’s school woes. Union leaders were even more outraged that the movie was screened at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — the convention chairman — attended the screening.
Follow Sam Hananel’s labor coverage at http://twitter.com/SamHananelAP