CHICAGO (CBS) — On Day 3 of the Chicago teachers’ strike, Rev. Jesse Jackson paid a visit to both sides and acknowledged that the city could be in for a drawn-out conflict.
“They are quite dug in,” he said. “The sense of urgency within the room does not comply with the sense of urgency in the streets. They should be meeting around the clock. With each passing day, the pain is compounded.”
Jackson said he was not playing an official role as mediator, but said he is willing to help. He met with both union president Karen Lewis and school board negotiators in separate rooms.
“Both sides have dug in,” he said. “At some point, they can’t hear each other.”
Jackson said there was no indication that either side has actually done any negotiating today.
“Unless something happens today that’s not likely to happen, schools will be closed again tomorrow,” Jackson said.
He acknowledged that teachers deserve a fair contract, but that the children need to be off the streets and in schools.
“This is not the time to choose sides,” he said. “Both sides need mutual respect.”
Jackson has seen this before. He helped mediate a 27-day firefighters strike in 1980 and the last Chicago teachers strike in 1987, which lasted 19 days.
“I remember the issue of the firemen’s strike more than 25 years ago got ugly because it got personal,” Jackson told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine last week. “The union chief was calling [then-Mayor] Jane Byrne names, and she was calling him names. It became so much animosity; they couldn’t get to the three or four points of the contention.”
Much the same has happened this time between Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who has called the mayor “a liar and a bully.”
The key issues appear to be centered on the teacher evaluation system and teacher retention in the event the city closes schools. The school board has offered a 16 percent pay increase over four years.