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Chicago teacher strike puts Obama in a pickle

Jason Oliva

Chicago Teachers Strike protesters 9/12/12

An Obama stance can pose problems come November

The Chicago Teacher’s Strike is well into its third day and with failed negotiations happening day after day, leaving 350,000 students shut out of class, the idea that something has got to give is leaned on more than ever. But if there is anywhere an organized union-focused strike can thrive, it is Chicago.

The third-largest school system in the country, Chicago serves as home to more than 30,000 teachers, administrators and support staff workers, all of which deeply rooted into their third day of striking.

A recent poll of registered Chicago voters has shown that majority of those who have voted are on the teachers’ side in favor of the strike. A 47 against 39 percent sway.

This is the first organized walk out by Chicago teachers in 25 years. In union-driven Chicago, where even non-union Wal-Mart spent years trying to get a store within city limits, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has become the villain.

Emanuel, whose administration proposed the requirements regarding teacher evaluations in response to student success, faces all sorts of criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Mayor Emanuel is accused of going against the grain, a Democratic official taking sides with the union’s opposition.

Emanuel, President Obama’s former White House chief of staff, stresses that it is not the teachers who are suffering the most because of the strike, rather the children are the ones being shorthanded.

President Obama has remained silent on the subject of the strike occurring in his hometown. With an election in November, the economy in shambles, anti-American rallies in the Middle East and the ever-increasing prices of gas, Obama simply has his hands full.

If Obama were to weigh in on the issue of the strike, he would be put in a tight spot. If Obama calls for teachers to return to work and comply with Mayor Emanuel’s administration’s requirements, then he would gain the vote of mothers who only want to see their children get the education they deserve, however, it would go against the democratic union-driven ideals upon which Obama has based his presidency and would widen the enthusiasm gap with Republicans.

On the other hand, if Obama sides with the CTU, then he merely appears as a prisoner of his political party. Right now, the best bet for President Obama is to watch the fight from the bleachers and hope that everything passes before November.

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