CHICAGO — As Chicago teachers walked the picket lines for a second day, they were joined by many of the very people who are most inconvenienced by their strike: the parents who must now scramble to find a place for children to pass the time or for baby sitters.

Mothers and fathers – some with their kids in tow – are marching with the teachers. Other parents are honking their encouragement from cars or planting yard signs that announce their support in English and Spanish.

Unions are still hallowed organizations in much of Chicago, and the teachers union holds a special place of honor in many households where children often grow up to join the same police, firefighter or trade unions as their parents and grandparents.

"I'm going to stay strong, behind the teachers," said the Rev. Michael Grant, who joined teachers on the picket line Tuesday. "My son says he's proud, `You are supporting my teacher.'"

But one question looming over the contract talks is whether parents will continue to stand behind teachers if students are left idle for days or weeks. That ticking clock could instill a sense of urgency in the ongoing negotiations.

Mary Bryan, the grandmother of two students at Shoop Academy on the city's far South Side, supports the teachers because she see "the frustration, the overwork they have." A protracted labor battle, she acknowledged, would "test the support" of many families.

Parents "should stick with them, but they might demand teachers go back to work," Bryan added.

Negotiators for the school district and union ended their talks around 8 p.m. Tuesday, reporting some progress but the union saying a deal was still a long way off. Board officials said they offered a new comprehensive plan to settle the outstanding issues and asked the union for either a written response or a comprehensive counterproposal.

To win friends, the union has engaged in something of a publicity campaign, telling parents repeatedly about problems with schools and the barriers that have made it more difficult to serve their kids. They cite classrooms that are stifling hot without air conditioning, important books that are unavailable and supplies as basic as toilet paper that are sometimes in short supply.

"They've been keeping me informed about that for months and months," Grant said.

It was a shrewd tactic, said Robert Bruno, professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"This union figured out they couldn't assume the public would be on their side so they went out and actively engaged in getting parent support," Bruno said. "They worked like the devil to get it."

But, said some reform advocates, public opinion could swing against the union relatively soon if the dispute seems to carry on with no resolution in sight.

Juan Jose Gonzalez is the Chicago director for the education advocacy group Stand for Children, which has hundreds of parent volunteers and was instrumental in pushing legislative reforms in Illinois. He says parents "are all over the map" in terms of their support for teachers or the school district.

"Within a day or two, all parents are going to turn their ire toward the strike," Gonzalez said. "As parents see what the district offers and see the teachers not counterpropose, they will become increasingly frustrated with the grandstanding."

During the last Chicago teachers strike in 1987, Bill Werme and his wife got so angry they pulled their daughter out of public school and enrolled her in private school for second grade. Parents could face the same choice now.

"If it was me, my support would whittle away," Werme said.

Already, there are some parents who don't understand why teachers would not readily accept a contract offering a 16 percent raise over four years – far more than most American employers are giving in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Rodney Espiritu, a stay-at-home dad whose 4-year-old son just started preschool, said the low test scores he's read about suggest teachers don't have "much of a foot to stand on."

Chicago's history of labor strength is one reason why this dispute is seen as a test of organized labor at a time when unions' political influence is being threatened across the country.

"What you're seeing here is a massive show of solidarity that is as widespread as anything we've seen in decades," said Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

In a telephone poll conducted Monday by the Chicago Sun-Times, nearly half of people surveyed said they supported the teachers union, compared with 39 percent who oppose the strike. Almost three-quarters of those polled regarded Emanuel's efforts to resolve the dispute as average, below average or poor.

The poll of 500 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

On Tuesday, union President Karen Lewis said negotiations were still far apart, with the two sides having agreed to just six of 48 articles in the contract. She said it would be "lunacy" to expect an agreement before Wednesday.

In many ways, Chicago is the perfect place for teachers to wage this battle, Bruno said.

With an estimated half million workers in the metropolitan area belonging to a union and a full quarter of the workforce unionized – a percentage rivaled only by New York and a handful of other big cities, Bruno said teachers have the most sympathetic public they could hope for.

"I do think if you were going to craft or design a strategy and determine the geographical space with the right politics, the right values, you couldn't do better than Chicago," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen, Michael Tarm and Jason Keyser contributed to this report.

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@ bylaurenfitz : Jean-Claude Brizard is "overjoyed kids are heading back to school tomorrow morning."

This will likely be the final update to this live blog Tuesday.

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@ MaryAnnAhernNBC : MRE says the school fight - its personal - loss of vitality from some he meets - "the classroom is where they learn" #CTUstrikeover

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@ CatalystChicago : Delegate Jay Rau says abt 90% of teachers voted to end strike. #ctustrike

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@ ChicagosMayor : "For the first time, teachers will have a meaningful evaluation based on a system based and designed by their fellow teachers." - MRE

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@ MaryAnnAhernNBC : MRE no questions tonight, will tomorrow #CTUstrikeover #RahmChicago

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  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Teachers picket outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally before a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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  • Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A large group of public school teachers rally at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A family waves at a large group of public school teachers as they march on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Chicago public school student Natalia Segal joins the picket line outside of Marshall High School on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on Monday after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young boy in a cart is pulled along by his mother at the tail of a group of public school teachers marching on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Thousands of public school teachers rally for the second consecutive day outside the Chicago Board of Education district headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)