Mayor Lori Lightfoot is asking the Chicago Teachers Union to end its strike without an agreement in place in order to allow students to return to class after missing three days of school.
In a letter sent Monday to CTU President Jesse Sharkey, Lightfoot urges the union to halt its work stoppage while negotiations continue because “our students and families are sacrificing a great deal that cannot be recovered.”
“While we have made progress at the bargaining table, it is unclear that we can reach an agreement today given the current pace,” the mayor wrote in her letter.
“The students and families of Chicago cannot afford to be out of school for any longer, which is why we are asking you to end the strike and encourage your members to return to work while bargaining continues. As someone who is concerned about the success of our students, we hope you see how necessary it is to reopen schools at this time.”
The CTU and its 32,000-plus members walked off the job Thursday, joined by Chicago Public Schools support staff represented by SEIU Local 73.
Later Monday, Lightfoot again expressed frustration with the CTU bargaining team over the pace of negotiations.
“I applaud them for their democracy, but that’s coming at a real cost, and the pace of this thing has to be accelerated or we’re not going to see a resolution to this anytime soon,” Lightfoot said Monday.
“There shouldn’t new issues that are coming to the table,” she added.
After visiting CPS students displaced by the strike, Lightfoot told reporters that the city has given all it’s got.
“Beyond what we’ve put on the table, there is no more money,” she said.
Both union leaders and the city believe a deal could be finalized this week. But until that process is finished and the CTU’s House of Delegates has time to review and approve any contract agreement, classes will remain canceled.
CPS has indicated it does not plan to make up class days lost to the strike at the end of the school year.
Video: Paris Schutz reports Monday evening from Malcolm X College, where the two sides are negotiating.
In her letter, Lightfoot said she and her team have heard from parents struggling to find day care for their kids. CPS sports teams across the city could also see their seasons affected or even end if the strike is not resolved soon, and seniors heading to college have expressed concern about their applications and letters of recommendation, which could be delayed by the work stoppage.
“Given where we are in negotiations, continuing this hardship is unnecessary,” Lightfoot said. “In the past few days, our bargaining teams have made progress on many issues that you have identified as important to your membership. You have told us and the public that the most essential issues to resolve in order to reach an overall agreement are class size and staffing. And what we repeatedly heard from you was this: ‘Put it in writing.’ We have done that.”
— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) October 21, 2019
The union responded to the letter Monday morning in a tweet saying: “Can someone let @chicagosmayor know when we said 'put it in writing,' this isn’t what we meant.”
The city’s contingency plan remains in place Monday. School buildings are open with non-union personnel on hand to serve students that arrive. CPS says breakfast and lunch will be served and supper will be given to students to take home.
Lightfoot said that if the strike ends, her team will “continue to negotiate in good faith and with the same sense of urgency” in order to wrap up the final unresolved bargaining issues.
“I hope you will agree,” she wrote, “to this reasonable request on behalf of our students.”