When I first started teaching in Chicago, I was skeptical about being a member of the Chicago Teachers Union. I was a hotshot rookie teacher who looked at the “step-and-lane” system of pay as archaic. When I saw then-Harlem Children’s Zone CEO Geoffrey Canada tell Oprah Winfrey that teachers unions were the greatest impediment to school success, I began to further question my union’s purpose and my allegiance to it. If someone had told me during those first few years that I could’ve skipped paying my dues and opted out of the union, as may likely be the outcome of the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case, I probably would have. Boy, I would have been sorry. (The Janus case is about whether public-sector unions should be allowed to collect fees from nonmembers who benefit from collective bargaining. )

Now, after 14 years as a Chicago Public Schools teacher and CTU member, I see this issue much differently. I began my career and my union membership during the seemingly peaceful times of Mayor Richard M. Daley. During my eighth year of teaching, Mayor Rahm Emanuel took charge of the school district.

One of the first decisions he made was to ask for a longer school year and school day without offering teachers a raise for this extra time. It was this decision, as well as feelings of mistrust and disrespect toward the mayor, that led to Chicago’s 2012 teachers strike.

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