CPS Teachers Union Meet with Strike Imminent

Chicago Teachers Union standing together in protest.

     Bartosz Brzezinski/Flickr

From the Chicago Tribune:

by Juan Perez Jr. 

After talking for well over a year without resolution, Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union met Wednesday to begin the final stretch of contract negotiations before a threatened strike next week.

The Chicago Teachers Union's 40-member bargaining unit, which last January rejected a contract proposal from the city that union leaders had deemed serious enough to bring to the team for approval, sat in on Wednesday's talks at the CTU's Merchandise Mart offices. The two sides have until Tuesday to reach a tentative agreement or the union says it will strike.

CPS says it has continued to use the January offer as a framework for negotiations, and in comments at City Hall on Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended the city's offer.

Emanuel said the deal was good for the students and "right for our teachers because it stabilizes the finances so we can keep any challenges of the finances away from the classroom where they were and also secures their pension."

The CTU's larger House of Delegates met later Wednesday afternoon to review negotiations and discuss the organization of a possible strike. After the meeting, CTU President Karen Lewis at first said there was nothing to report, but when pressed on whether there had been any movement in talks, replied, "Yes, how about that?"

"We have to protect our students, we have to protect them against cuts," said Alison Eichhorn, a union delegate and bargaining team member. "We also have to protect our members, and that means we cannot afford cuts, whatever that might look like.

"We're planning to negotiate all weekend, and we are cautiously optimistic that something can get some movement somewhere."

The union has been without a contract since June 30, 2015. Earlier this week, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey outlined some "pressing educational needs" with a price tag he put at up to $200 million.

Sharkey's proposals included hiring workers to help school counselors with administrative work, easing classroom sizes in the early grades, hiring back social workers in an effort "targeted to some of our most troubled schools" and restoring some cuts to library services.

"Then we need to do something to ensure the (school) board isn't going to balance this budget on the backs of our teachers," Sharkey said.

"But all told, we're talking about a pretty reasonable amount of money given the size of the overall district," Sharkey said. "These are things we think are eminently reasonable and schools should consider doing."

Read more from the Chicago Tribune.