A reader asked an important question in response to my blog about the Chicago Teachers Union decision to authorize a strike: What if they strike and they lose? What if Mayor Emanuel fires them all and replaces them with TFA? Won’t it prove that striking is futile? Won’t unions everywhere lose heart?
I responded that the mayor might prevail. He might keep the schools closed and hammer the union into submission. Could he replace 25,000 striking teachers with scabs? There are not enough TFA teachers minted every year to do that (TFA sends out fewer than 10,000 per year). Even if he did hire TFA, he would have a completely green workforce with constant turnover. I wonder how TFA corps members would feel about being used as strike breakers.
Emanuel could surely fill the empty jobs with teachers who have been fired or laid off elsewhere. There is a large pool of them. He would surely have a teaching force filled not with creativity and passion for their work, but with fear and timidity.
What happened in Chicago was not about winning. Winning is never certain. And there is nothing good about losing.
What matters is that the teachers of Chicago said “enough is enough.” They could have remained silent. They could have avoided the confrontation. They could just accept whatever is done to them. But they said no. They said they could not be bullied any more.
And it is true that they might lose. But there comes a time when a person must assert his or her dignity. There comes a time when people take risks for what they believe in their heart is right. This is that time.