Teachers, Support Staff, Park District: A City on Triple Strike?

Everything is set in motion for a Chicago teachers strike: On Monday, Chicago Public Schools officials formally acknowledged receipt of the Chicago Teachers Union’s letter sent Friday that gives a legally required, 10-day notice of members’ intent to strike.

That means the earliest CTU members could walk out of the classroom is next Monday, Oct. 7.

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But teachers aren’t the only ones looking to strike. So, too, are CPS support staff like speech, occupational and physical therapists, special education assistants and bus drivers, as well as Chicago Park District employees, both of which are represented by SEIU Local 73.

Their timeline is a bit later: The earliest park district workers can go on strike is Oct. 9; for CPS support staff it’s Oct. 17.

In an effort to increase their leverage, the unions are considering going on strike simultaneously.

“Yes, we are all looking to potentially strike at the same time and that’s because we are supporting each other. Because we’re all fighting for the same – virtually the same – things. And we need to stand together,” said Becky Kliber, a park district supervisor and SEIU member.

That could complicate matters for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who ran as both a labor-friendly progressive and a no-nonsense leader who’d whip Chicago’s finances into shape.

Beyond potential image issues, there may be material ones.

When Chicago teachers last went on strike in 2012, the park district was a refuge for students. Parks offered a “strike camp” where students could drop in and play dodgeball, floor hockey or do arts and crafts.

None of that would be feasible if park district employees aren’t on the job.

The mayor says the administration has a contingency plan, but that there is no reason it should be needed.

“Let’s get the deal done. Let’s go seven days a week. Let’s triple, quadruple track as I’ve offered many a time. I’m willing to be at the table myself,” she said. “There’s a deal to be had if there’s an interest in actually avoiding a strike.”

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

Related stories:

As Teachers Strike Looms, Principals Group Says CPS Misrepresented Its Views

Chicago Teachers Union Members Vote to Authorize Strike

University of Chicago Nurses Hit the Picket Line

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