Chicago teachers are wrong, wrong, wrong
Plus: TOMORROW listen to our January 6th Racket News PODCAST. And: Yes, omicron is milder. And: Why isn't Congress fixing the Electoral Count Act?
Good morning, there’s a lot to cover today, so let me get out the shovel and dig right into the pile. First, 73% of Chicago teachers union members voted to walk out rather than teach children in-person, giving their intention to teach remotely. This is an action the teachers have no authority to take, and the union has no authority to negotiate. It’s not a contract issue, or a pay issue; they consider it a workplace safety issue, but they are in direct conflict with CDC guidance.
Chicago Public Schools had no choice but to close for the day while they engage with the union in negotiations. CPS called the walkout “illegal,” and said in a statement:
A vote to stop reporting to work would cause profound harm to children’s learning and health and be another damaging blow to the well being of our students and their families. Some key facts include:
A District-wide, unwarranted mass school closure could fuel community spread of COVID-19.
Our families will now have to scramble for childcare, possibly putting their children in spaces that are far less safe, without COVID-19 safety measures in place.
Our medical community has not recommended a move to shut down schools.
Windy City teachers and their union bosses know all these things, but decided to walk out anyway because they are acting in their own narrow interests. They are being selfish. My concern is that other city teachers’ unions are looking closely at how Chicago is handling this, and may adopt the same selfish tactics. Kids need to be in school, even though a limited amount of caution (I called it a “freakout” yesterday) was expected. By next week, every kid needs to be in the classroom, unless they have symptoms, test positive, or have close contact per CDC guidelines.
If I were a general assembly member sitting in Springfield, in the Illinois capitol building, I’d be looking at extremely punishing legislative options right now to show the teachers they don’t get to make school policy based on their one-sided arguments. This is not the time for their union to flex.
I am reminded of the PATCO strike in 1981, when air traffic controllers had spent the past decade flexing by purposely slowing down air traffic, poisoning relations with the pilots’ union (ALPA), the airlines, passengers, and the government. When the strike happened, they found themselves very lonely and without sympathy. President Ronald Reagan simply dismissed them all and brought in military controllers while a new, non-union crop of ATC professionals could be trained. And pilots, passengers, airlines, and the government all praised the new controllers, who were focused on moving traffic, not flexing union power.
CPS has published incentives for substitute teachers which include a $420 stipend for working at least 12 days in a month, $45 per day extra to work in high need schools. and a daily $30 additional stipend for working January 3-January 14, 2022. Good. If necessary, I hope they increase the stipends, and people flock to Chicago to replace the union teachers. I am not a fan of scabs, normally (when unions function properly, that is), but in this case, the Chicago union has spilled its own milk, and deserves to cry over it.
NYT admits “Omicron is milder”
I love reading David Leonhardt’s daily “The Morning” newsletter. He’s one of the only major journalists who has covered COVID-19 in a balanced, fact-based way, not with breathless, extreme narratives adopted by the cable networks and many other newspapers. (As a pat on our own back, The Racket News’ David Thornton is in the same category of fair and accurate coverage.)
This morning, his headline was “Omicron is milder.” Now I’ve been beating that drum for about a month, after seeing the data from South Africa, the U.K., Belgium, and other nations. Now that data is becoming clear enough in the U.S. for even cautious national journalists to see that the huge wave of deaths is not coming.
We can all see that hospitalizations are rising, but that’s going to happen because we have a winter surge. We may have some stress to the medical system, urgent care, and waiting rooms, but we also have some important new treatments available such as the COVID-19 pill, which the Biden administration has placed an order with Pfizer for 10 million courses.
It’s also important to note that South Africa’s data shows the omicron wave peaked about a month after it began, and quickly receded. Our wave began right before Christmas, which means we can expect it to crest around the end of January, and recede by the middle of February. By March, we may be out of this particular wave, and unless there’s another, more virulent, strain coming, it could mark the transition of the COVID-19 pandemic to an endemic seasonal disease. From all the history of pandemics that have been analyzed, that is the most likely scenario.
What does all that mean to us? From Leonhardt:
Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s former health commissioner, wrote a helpful Washington Post article in which she urged a middle path between reinstituting lockdowns and allowing Omicron to spread unchecked.
“It’s unreasonable to ask vaccinated people to refrain from pre-pandemic activities,” Wen said. “After all, the individual risk to them is low, and there is a steep price to keeping students out of school, shuttering restaurants and retail shops and stopping travel and commerce.”
Keep kids in school, go to work, get your booster (I did), if you’re not vaccinated, for the love of God please get your shot, and live your life. It’s time to walk out of the freakout zone and into some normalcy. It’s about time for the media to lead us to the “middle path.” Amen, David Leonhardt.
More: January 6th redux and a PODCAST!
David, Jay and I got together (virtually) and recorded a podcast to review January 6th a year later. I am editing it down to a reasonable length and it should be up tomorrow for your listening pleasure.
One tease here is the dated and confusing Electoral Count Act from 1887. David French wrote about it in his latest newsletter (which is for subscribers only, so I won’t link it here). It’s the crux of the “play stupid games” show Republicans in Congress put on a year ago, and what Democrats flirted with in 2000 and 2016.
Yes, Congress should change the law. But they won’t because they are all short-sighted political pigs at the trough. My biggest fear of January 6th isn’t that it could have succeeded, it’s that now Democrats feel they have permission to try it for real, and Democrats are much better at this kind of thing. The fact that both parties have devolved into giant middle fingers aimed at each other and favoring the most extreme idiot voters over moderates is frightening to all of us Racketeers.
The parties have abandoned moderates as irrelevant, which is why they ignore such basic hygiene at the state legislative, district-drawing, and federal level (remember, Trump was acquitted, twice). One day, it’s going to really hurt the nation, and in fact, it did a year ago, but we won’t know the extent of it for a while.
Tune in tomorrow for the PODCAST, and please, by all means, get your friends to listen. We really do love your comments, even when they are not so complimentary.
If you like what you’re reading, please consider sharing!
If you haven’t subscribed to the Racket yet, click the button below to do so while it’s still free. And remember, with the Racket you get MORE than what you pay for!
You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.
As always, we appreciate shares. If you see something here that you like, please send it to your friends and tell them that all the cool kids read the Racket!
I haven't had a chance to chat with any fellow Chicagoans with kids in school, but I strongly suspect that the teachers are well overplaying their hand, and this won't end well for them.
That said, the political leaders and administration are handling it well:
"The district's CEO, Pedro Martinez, said during an address Tuesday that even if classes are canceled, schools will remain open for families. He noted, however, no decisions will be made until the union votes later Tuesday evening."
"'I will have to cancel classes [Wednesday],' he said. 'It doesn't mean that the schools will be closed. The schools will be open, but I will have to cancel classes tomorrow because I can't... I have to be responsible in knowing who's going to be showing up to the buildings. And then, we will have a plan specifically for parents that will come out tomorrow in a very timely fashion about what the path forward is.'"
Martinez is doing a VERY smart thing here positioning the school administration on the side of children and parents by keeping the schools open for students (a BIG deal if you need child care in order to go to work), and effectively calling the union's bluff that conditions are unsafe.
Also, in a past post, I requested for ongoing data-based follow-ups on the severity of the Omicron wave, and thank you Steve for continuing to provide that.
The flexing you speak of is typical - particularly for public sector unions. I became a fan of scabs when my company assigned administrative and engineering personnel to do the work of striking employees. The engineers cleaned up the backlog of plant maintenance work in about two weeks before the union electricians and mechanics saw the light and returned to work.