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

Video: This report follows conversations on “Chicago Tonight” with both sides of the contract negotiation: the mayor and CPS CEO; and CTU leadership.

The Chicago Teachers Union has set a strike date of Oct. 17, but the deadline for the city to come to a deal with the 25,000-member union may be sooner.

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This year, the union’s 700-member House of Delegates – which represents teachers across the city – passed a resolution requiring CTU leadership to bring any tentative deals back to an emergency meeting of those delegates. Those members would then decide whether to call off a strike.

Theoretically, this means even if a contract deal is reached at the 11th hour, teachers could be on the picket lines Oct. 17, and remain there until delegates have reviewed the contract and decided whether to accept the city’s offer.

Sources in CTU say members were angered when, in 2016, union leadership called off a strike after reaching a deal right around the midnight deadline. Some teachers woke up and went to the classroom – instead of the picket line – without knowing the terms of the deal; others were angered at the content of the deal and the fact that CTU had called off the strike without their input.

Where do negotiations stand?

They’re ongoing: Negotiators for both sides are expected to be back at the bargaining table Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They’re off Sunday, but back to negotiations again Monday.

What’s at stake?

The city says it has offered teachers one of the most generous contracts in CTU history: a 16% salary increase over a five-year term.

CTU initially called for a three-year contract, with a 5% raise each year.

The union has argued for the city to promise an increase in the number of nurses, counselors and social workers in the contract. While Mayor Lori Lightfoot has included greater staffing for those positions in the CPS budget, and expressed a commitment to increasing those positions, she has refused to “put it in writing” as the union has demanded. Legally, the union can’t strike over staffing and class sizes, but it has made the case that insufficient staffing creates extremely poor working conditions for teachers – and poor learning conditions for students. And they can strike over working conditions.

What happens if teachers strike?

School buildings will be open during their normal bell schedule, and students will be fed a breakfast and lunch. In the past, the city has worked with partner agencies, like the Chicago Park District and libraries to provide safe spaces for students if teachers are on strike. If a strike happens this time, some park district employees would also be on strike with teachers. The city has also partnered with community organizations, like the YMCA of Metro Chicago and the Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. No word from the city on whether they are part of this year’s contingency plan. The city has more on its plan here.

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman

Related stories:

Teachers Union Leaders Defend ‘Equity’ Demands in Contract Negotiations

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

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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