Teachers Union Leaders Defend Equity Demands in Contract Negotiations

Over the past few months, the Chicago Teachers Union has insisted that its next contract with the city include not just raises for teachers, but a host of other commitments.

Those include hiring more counselors and nurses, hard limits to class sizes, and even housing assistance for both teachers and students.

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But with a possible strike looming, will those demands hold up?

The union has authorized an Oct. 17 strike date, when teachers could also could be joined by support staff and unionized Chicago Park District workers.

This week, the issue of affordable housing became the latest sticking point in the contract negotiations. The CTU is demanding any deal include promises of housing assistance for new teachers and homeless students.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed those requests Tuesday, saying in a statement that “the collective bargaining agreement is not the appropriate place for the City to legislate its affordable housing policy.”

“We’re in an affordable housing crisis,” Lightfoot acknowledged Wednesday on “Chicago Tonight.” “I agree with those issues, but that’s not germane to the nuts and bolts of a CTU contract.”

Read: Mayor, CPS CEO: Solutions to ‘Quality-of-Life Issues’ Aren’t in a Teachers Contract

CTU President Jesse Sharkey pushed back on that assertion, saying housing is intertwined with how teachers teach and students learn.

“It’s germane when you think of the fact that there are over 16,000 students who are homeless in the Chicago Public Schools, and many of our schools have a hard time offering even basic services to those students,” he said. “It’s germane when you consider that … many of our members can’t afford housing in the city of Chicago.”

“Sixteen-thousand documented homeless students is a big deal, and we are leveraging our ability to have an enforceable contract to deal with that,” added Stacy Davis Gates, the CTU vice president. 

While CTU has set an official strike date of Oct. 17, any final contract would need to be approved by the union’s House of Delegates.

Sharkey says this could mean the deadline for a deal with the city might fall sooner than next Thursday’s strike date.

“I’m not going to say it’s a lot closer, but the truth of the matter is that before membership votes to call off a potential strike, they’re going to need to read what’s actually on the table. So we have our work cut out,” he said. 

Related stories:

What’s Next in Lead-Up to a Chicago Teachers Strike?

Lightfoot Expresses ‘Significant Concern’ As Teachers Strike Looms

Chicago Teachers Union Sets Oct. 17 Date for Strike If No Deal Reached

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

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