Weeks after a “historic show of unity and collaboration” between the heads of the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools, a union official said he’s seen a “historic reset” in the quality of labor relations between the sides.
Speaking before the Chicago Board of Education at its monthly meeting Wednesday, CTU Vice President Jackson Potter said the changes he’s seen in terms of district cooperation are “unprecedented.”
“I think we’re in the midst of a historic reset in terms of labor relations and collaboration,” he said.
CPS and the CTU have often found themselves at odds in recent years, from an 11-day strike in 2019 to contentious school safety negotiations and five days of canceled classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with the union’s current contract set to expire next year, both sides have struck a more optimistic tone.
Earlier this month, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez took a joint trip to Springfield to call on state legislators for increased funding for CPS school communities. Newly-elected Mayor Brandon Johnson — a former teacher and CTU organizer — said that “partnership is perhaps the first of its kind in recent memory.”
“With this trip, you have labor and management coming together in the interests of students and their families, and I am hopeful about the outcome and what the future holds,” Johnson said in a statement at the time.
CTU and other labor organizations also provided the bulk of funding to Johnson’s campaign.
Martinez was appointed by Johnson’s predecessor Lori Lightfoot, but during his inaugural speech, Johnson called out different education leaders by name, including Martinez, saying: “I need you. We can do this together.”
Potter on Wednesday said that Springfield trip is already “bearing fruit.” He said CTU officials have also been invited into meetings with CPS department leaders they’ve never worked with before and are collaborating on programs designed to stem violence and provide safe places for students during holidays like the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.
“We’ve never really done that together in this way,” he said, “so I hope it’s not just a momentary shift, but a permanent one.”