City Colleges of Chicago Staffers Begin Strike

City Colleges of Chicago employees march downtown on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. They are demanding a fair contract. (WTTW News)City Colleges of Chicago employees march downtown on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. They are demanding a fair contract. (WTTW News)

Hundreds of full- and part-time City Colleges of Chicago staffers walked off their jobs Wednesday, kicking off a strike after they received an “unfair” contract proposal from the system’s administration.

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The 450 employees represented by the Federation of College Clerical and Technical Personnel union say they’ve been working without a contract for nearly three years – and have been doing so without a livable wage or “the respect they deserve.”

“Enough is enough,” FCCTP President Delores Withers said, repeating a chant strikers had used throughout their rally Wednesday. “We are not going to take not having a fair contract any longer.”

“Too many of our members don’t earn (the city’s) minimum wage, many can’t afford health care and it’s time for Chancellor Salgado to do the moral thing.”

Federation staffers say they “serve on the front lines” in the colleges, providing critical student and administrative services.

Last week, 87 percent of voting union members opted to reject CCC’s latest contract offer. They say administration has refused to fill a backlog of position vacancies, which limits student services and places additional burdens on FCCTP employees, a majority of whom make less than $13 per hour.

“They are not willing to fill over 165 vacancies,” Withers said. “The workload issues are a part of it. Remaining workers are picking up workloads for maybe three to four people while there are vacant positions.”

The union says many low-income workers – most of whom are black and brown women – have been forced to use unpaid furlough days while salaries in the CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado’s office has increased by nearly 40%.

“City Colleges values our faculty and staff who dedicate themselves to providing our students with the high-quality education they deserve,” CCC spokeswoman Katheryn Hayes said in a statement. “City Colleges is committed to reaching a contract that recognizes the work of our clerical and technical staff.  In the meantime, we will do all that we can to minimize the impact of a strike on our students.”

The workers began their strike Wednesday at Harold Washington College on the Near North Side before marching to the City Colleges’ district office. Charter teachers from three schools represented by the Chicago Teachers Union also kicked off what they say is the first-ever multi-employer charter strike Wednesday afternoon.

They held a joint rally last week with FCCTP employees, who are affiliated with both the Illinois and American Federation of Teachers.

“What are the City Colleges about?” AFT President Randi Weingarten said Wednesday. “They are about creating a road, a highway, to the American Dream. That doesn’t happen without the faculty or without the support staff.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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