Public Relations Counsel to Chicago Public Schools Teachers This Labor Day 2016

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Ah, Labor Day 2016!

One can envision today as a glorious end to the summer season and the start of fall, and with it the onset of shorter days, cooler temperatures and football.

(Hopefully, fall of 2016 will also usher in the ultimate climax to a magical season for my beloved Chicago Cubs; but that pecpslogo@2xrspective is the subject of a post for an0ther day.)

And of course, Labor Day marks the return to school for many kids and young adults, including the approximately 400,000 students who attend Chicago Public Schools.

Classes start tomorrow, September 6. The question, however, is will this school year be marred by a strike.  An editorial from Crain’s Chicago Business provides a perspective on why members of the Chicago Teacher’s Union should not go on strike.

Please take a moment to read the commentary.

Done?

Now, here’s some thoughts from a public relations perspective related to thectu strike. Granted, I’m perhaps taking some liberties in offering a correlation between public relations practices and an action by organized labor. But stay with me.

I’ll start with interpreting what’s widely acknowledged as the first step in a strategic public relations plan: Identify ways to mitigate a threat or take advantage of an opportunity.

Teachers have threatened to walk off the job in mid October unless their salary and pension contribution demands are met. Striking would effectively: Exacerbate a threat to the position of the union members as caring professional educators and diminish their standing in the community; and, cast aside the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to the children they teach and their families, to themselves as educators and to Chicago taxpayers who fund schools.

To some Chicagoans, myself included, a strike next month by CTU members would be unwise and perceived as a betrayal. In common parlance, it would not result in “good public relations.”

And, I’ll make this disclosure now: I am a Chicago property owner and more than half of my annual property tax payments goes to CPS. Yes, I would not be pleased if teachers vote to strike, like they did in September of 2012.

Four years ago, the strike led to bitter discourse and kept students out of school for some seven days.  The organization I worked for then had offices around the corner from CPS headquarters; I observed the striking teachers and tried to understand their position.

What I remember were childish taunts and lambasts aimed at Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

On this day, when we celebrate the rights of working people in this nation and around the world, I hope CTU and its leaders come to the realization that a strike will surely pose a serious threat to the reputation of Chicago teachers.

Reaching a compromise with the city would be the opportunity needed to mitigate that threat.

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