Duckworth: Teacher strike 'a failure on both sides'

  • Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth talks to the Daily Herald Editorial Board on Thursday.

      Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth talks to the Daily Herald Editorial Board on Thursday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Walsh

    Joe Walsh

and Projects Writer

A Democratic congressional candidate with heavy union support says the Chicago teachers strike is the result of "a failure on both sides."

Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates went on to say that the Chicago Teachers Union could learn from suburban teachers unions and school boards, many of which have successfully hammered out issues without disrupting classes.

"It didn't have to happen," Duckworth said. The weeklong Chicago strike "shows that there's a failure on both sides."

The former Obama administration member said she is "in an interesting situation" since she has both union backing and a close friendship with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is at odds with union leader Karen Lewis.

Duckworth made the comments during a meeting with the Daily Herald Editorial Board on Thursday and during a separate interview with WBBM Newsradio 780-AM and the Daily Herald for the station's "At Issue" program, which will air at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Duckworth's opponent, Republican Congressman Joe Walsh of McHenry, cut more directly at teachers, calling their demands "outrageous." He said Duckworth should give contributions from the teachers union back.

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The two are vying for the 8th Congressional District, which includes parts of northwest Cook, eastern Kane and central DuPage counties.

Duckworth is endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and a sizable percentage of her war chest comes from union support. The American Federation of Teachers, the Brotherhood of Boilermakers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Service Employees International Union, among others, have each donated between $1,000 and $10,000 to her campaign in recent months.

Walsh, whose campaign receives little financial backing from unions, noted the average Chicago teacher makes $71,236 and said the "average person in my district makes $46,000."

"People up and down are struggling," Walsh said, accusing the teachers of "fighting measures to hold them accountable."

Thursday was the fourth day of the strike affecting more than 350,000 Chicago students.

Duckworth said the Chicago negotiators could learn from suburban schools, citing "instances of managing to avert strikes by real, honest discussion."

However, suburban school districts are not immune to strikes. Lake Forest High School teachers walked out Wednesday after failing to reach an agreement on salaries and benefits with the school board. Zion-Benton Township High School teachers went on strike last January, for the first strike in the area since 2009.

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