After the Dixon teachers strike began today, someone asked me why it had come to this. After all, the district and teachers have had a long time – teachers have been without a contract since last summer – to reach a deal.
That’s what a strike is for – to put maximum pressure on the bosses to increase workers’ pay.
This type of brinkmanship is seen all over society, starting at the top. Remember the doom and gloom of the “fiscal cliff” last year in Washington? Our leaders waited until their self-imposed New Year’s Eve deadline to strike a deal. That was after a year and a half of haggling.
When labor unions took hold in the late 1800s, they found a home in the private sector. In recent decades, however, union membership in the private sector has plunged. These days, government unions are the most active.
I’m something of a veteran of teacher strikes.
Growing up in Rockford, I endured two of them. On Aug. 29, 1978, teachers walked out. I was a first-grader, so I don’t remember much.
But I recall that my teacher, June Peterson, crossed the picket line to teach – at least that first day.
That must have taken some courage. Now, schools are closed shops, meaning everyone has to belong to the union. In other words, no one crosses picket lines.
The strike ended a week later.
The next one was at the beginning of the 1984-85 school year. It lasted nearly a month.
I was in seventh grade, my first year of middle school. Frankly, I was afraid about going to a much larger school, so I was glad that the teachers delayed the dreaded change.
After it ended, I remember some classmates mocking the strike in front of my math teacher.
The teacher got mad. He said it was unfair that teachers made less than truck drivers. Maybe so, I thought then, but truck drivers, especially long-haul ones, had tough jobs, being away from home days at a time.
My thought now: The strikes didn’t really have an impact on my education.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.