The Chicago Teachers Union says members will walk off the job Oct. 17 if a deal with the Chicago Board of Education can’t be reached.
The 700-member House of Delegates voted to approve that date during a Wednesday evening meeting.
When announcing that date, members of SEIU Local 73, which include classroom assistants, bus aides, custodians and other non-teaching staff, flanked CTU leadership and members of CTU in an energetic union hall that broke out into chants, “If we don’t get it, shut it down.”
SEIU members delivered a strike notice to Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday, notifying her of their intent to strike on the same date – Oct. 17 – if no contract deal is reached.
“I think it’s powerful to have more than one union unified and working in concert,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey told WTTW News. “The truth is, we share a similar set of concerns: we want better schools, we want dignity and respect for the people who work in those schools, and we have to present a very clear choice for the mayor. She can make good on the promises that she made when she was running … or she can face a very unified labor movement that could potentially all be on strike together on Oct. 17.”
Such a tandem strike could give the city more time to come to an agreement with both unions. But it could also be a force multiplier, because a walkout of 35,000 school employees would be a massive disruption to the school district and the city.
“It adds a bit more chaos and interruption to the city, the impact on parents and on children,” said Robert Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “And I’m sure the teachers union really has to factor in whether the community is going to be supportive of a strike that has larger impacts.”
In a joint statement, both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said: “We are committed to honoring and supporting [teachers’ and support staff] service by offering the most comprehensive and significant contract proposal in district history, proposing steps to address classroom overcrowding and committing to hire hundreds of additional nurses, social workers and case managers.”
The district says in the event of a strike it is prepared to open schools, with CPS administrative office staff assigned to schools as needed, and that students will be served breakfast and lunch. But after-school activities will be canceled and school transportation services will not be available. Charters and contract schools will continue to operate on their normal schedules.
Additionally, the district has partnered with the Chicago Public Library, a limited number of parks, Safe Haven sites and other community organizations to provide additional spaces for children. The district has established a website for families to locate available sites.
In 2012, when teachers walked out, principals kept schools open with the support of those non-teaching support staff. But if this time, those staffers would be on strike alongside teachers.
The district also typically partners with other agencies, like the Chicago Park District and community organizations like the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs, to provide safe spaces for children during a walkout.
But the Park District is facing its own employee strike, which could take place as early as Oct. 9 if no contract deal is reached.
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