Strike against them

Bill Wilson / July 21, 2011

I knew there was another side to Ms. Perrone, and it came blaring out from the obnoxious side of a megaphone.

It was during the great teachers’ strike of my time, one that lasted about as long as it takes to suffer a splinter to the index finger from a picket sign.

As a fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Perrone came off as the hippest. She was a grade-school sensei, one that had all of us wide-eyed over her ability to bring her inner child out while still commanding the respect of an adult. Still, I managed to shake out of my trance long enough to analyze the root of her character, and I did not pull up a very pretty visual. And there it was on that hot September day, looking like an ugly, prickly weed. She was taking her turn at the front of the picket line, screaming out demands and looking more and more like the malicious Cobra Kai dojo leader of “The Karate Kid” movie fame.

However, teachers and their unions have always been pretty smart apples when it comes to negotiating new contracts with school districts. They would always wait until the dawning of the school year before throwing out lopsided demands. In the end, the teachers came out looking good for their annual class pictures. But the Great Recession has put a worm in the educator’s fruitful efforts. In fact, many in the Chicagoland area have been negotiating new contracts, with meager rewards, at the start of the summer rather than the end. Most are just happy to retain last year’s desk, even if it is showing signs of age. There are a group of ironworkers who probably need to be educated in the new etiquette of how to conduct oneself at the negotiating table. About 500 members of the Ironworkers Local 395 laced up the working boots for the strike line in early June, threatening the progress of two prominent Indiana Department of Transportation projects—work on the Indiana Toll Road and the Borman Expressway—as the construction season hit full throttle. The Toll Road is currently in the midst of a $250 million capital improvement project, and the latest phase was supposed to start after Memorial Day weekend. ITR Concession, which manages the Toll Road, did not seem concerned at the onset, saying, “Eventually it will all work out and they will redo the timelines.” INDOT was not as settled as ITR, but at press time was not uneasy, either. “At this time it is too early for us to tell how many INDOT projects it will affect and for how long,” said spokesperson Angie Fegaras. The union was seeking a multiyear deal with an increase in pay. About three years ago, I would have supported such a move. Heck, I’d even be willing to take an infected picket-sign wound for such a cause. I am not going to lift a finger for this latest work stoppage. Quite frankly, I think the union’s motivation for such a move should be thrown into detention. The construction industry is suffering one of the worst work shortages since the invention of the shovel, and this group has the audacity to protest solid and guaranteed employment. I say let them sit, because there are a thousand other jobless and qualified candidates who are willing to stand and do whatever it takes to shed some inches off the unpaid bill pile. Of course, after being out of work for more than a year, that is what those of the Ironworkers Local 395 were hoping to do—then they were told to take a side.

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