May 2013

Profiles of significant collective bargaining disputes of 2012

A teachers’ strike in Chicago; a strike by machinists at an aircraft-manufacturing company in Texas, an air force base in California, and a naval air station in Maryland; and a lockout of utility workers in metropolitan New York City led the 21 major work stoppages that took place in 2012.

Nineteen major work stoppages, each involving 1,000 or more employees, began in 2012. The top three stoppages, in terms of the number of days of idleness and the number of employees affected, consisted of two strikes and a lockout. The analysis that follows examines those three stoppages.

Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Public Schools, formally known as Chicago Public School District 299 in Chicago, IL, reported the largest work stoppage that began in 2012 when 26,500 members of the Chicago Teachers Union left their classrooms from September 10 to September 18 of that year.1 The Chicago teachers strike accrued 185,500 days of idleness.2 A key issue was the schools’ proposal to base teachers’ pay on student achievement testing.

According to one newspaper article, the teachers “said the school system wanted to attach too much weight to the performance of students.”3 The teachers also worried about what would happen to their teaching positions as the Chicago district closed underperforming schools.4

Other issues in dispute were a proposal to increase health care costs on teachers and a plan to “get rid of the automatic pay increases that teachers receive for years of service and advanced college degrees, common in union teachers’ collective bargaining agreements.”5

The strike came to an end on September 18, 2012, with the collective bargaining agreement that was reached calling for an average raise of 17.6 percent over 4 years, down from the 30 percent initially sought by the union.6 In the final contract, test scores will count for no more than 30 percent of teacher evaluations, the minimum percentage required by the state of Illinois.7 The Chicago Public School District had wanted student test scores to count for as much as 45 percent of evaluations.8

The agreement managed to hold the line on health insurance increases that were originally proposed and established a new wellness program.9 Also kept in place were pay increases based on seniority and on additional education. In addition, the agreement provides laid-off teachers better job opportunities than originally offered and gives teachers control over their own lesson plans.10

Other aspects of the collective bargaining agreement include limiting the duration of the contract to 3 years with an optional fourth year, ending unpaid suspensions of teachers, and establishing the right to grieve unfair disciplinary measures.11 The new contract also establishes the right to appeal “unsatisfactory” ratings, as well as two consecutive “developing” ratings, to a neutral appeals board. In addition, the agreement stipulates that half of all new teachers hired must be displaced members with a rating of either “proficient” or “excellent.”12 Addressing sick and other kinds of leave, the agreement ends the accumulation of sick time for future use, replaces sick leave with a maternity, paternity, and short-term disability benefit that can provide 90 days of paid leave, and allows teachers to keep their sick time already banked.13

The new contract establishes additional funding to lower class size and lower the number of caseloads for social workers, counselors, teacher assistants, psychologists, and special education teachers.14 Finally, the contract now requires that any new state aid for Chicago Public School personnel be spent to hire up to 100 additional social workers and counselors.15


1 See “Work Stoppages: Work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, September 2012” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 8, 2013),

2 Ibid.

3 Michael Pearson, “Wins, losses and draws in Chicago school strike,” CNN U.S., Sept. 10, 2012,

4 Ibid.

5 “Strike puts spotlight on teacher evaluation, pay: 350,000 students caught in politically fraught dispute over pay, job security,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 10, 2012,

6 Pearson, “Wins, losses and draws.”

7 See Chicago Teachers Union Blog, September 2012 archive,

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Pearson, “Wins, losses and draws”; and Chicago Teachers Union Blog.

11 See Chicago Teachers Union Blog.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

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About the Author

Elizabeth A. Ashack

Elizabeth A. Ashack is an economist in the Division of Compensation Data Analysis and Planning, Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics.