Chicago teachers are currently voting on whether to authorize a strike in the Windy City, in a closely watched process that could shape the future of proposed education changes in the district.
If it passes, the vote doesn't mean teachers are to start forming the picket lines imminently. But it does allow the union's governing body to set a date for a strike, and it will provide a temperature of the city's teaching force. Many teachers are upset about the district's proposal to extend the school day and to raise salaries by just 2 percent over the next two years.
The Chicago Teachers Union wants to see a 30 percent raise over the next two years to reflect, in part, the longer hours. The two sides haven't been able to complete a new collective bargaining contract; an arbitrator is supposed to make recommendations to the two sides in July.
CTU officials have been frank that the strike authorization is partly to gain more traction in these negotiations.
The city's strike laws were altered in a piece of legislation that passed last year, which changed the threshold for authorizing a strike from a simple majority to a 75 percent "yes" vote. It was thought at the time that that would be quite a difficult hurdle to clear. But CTU officials seem to be optimistic that they will meet the threshold.
Education advocacy groups Stand For Children and Education Reform Now (which is affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform) have been among those lobbying against a strike, through the use of advertisements and petitions, according to the Chicago Tribune.
We'll update this item with the results of the vote, which should be announced next week. So check back soon.
Updated, 6/11/12, 2:06 pm: The Tribune is reporting that the authorization vote passed.
Updated, 6/11/12, 3:28 pm: Looks like the vote was overwhelmingly in favor, around 90 percent of eligible members.