|Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons|
Last Wednesday, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) House of Delegates gave President Karen Lewis authority to issue a 10-day strike notice. 90% of all CTU teachers (and 98% of those who voted) approved a strike back in June. According to Illinois state law, the union must also give the school board a 10 day notice before walking out.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has been trying to lengthen the school day from 5 hours and 45 minutes to seven and a half hours, while also trying to close a $655 million budget deficit that is expected to reach $1 billion by next year, according to the New York Times. Initially, CPS tried to impose the longer workday on teachers without compensation, a ridiculous demand that has since been toned down. CPS agreed in July to fill the void created by the longer school day by rehiring laid off teachers, instead of making existing teachers work longer without pay. However, the union is still concerned about wages, job security, evaluations and other issues like smaller class sizes and increasing the number of social workers, counselors and nurses, reports Labor Notes. Much of this seems unlikely with the district slashing programs in hopes of closing their budget deficit.
CPS has also been bargaining in bad faith by violating the existing contract while new contract negotiations continue. For example, they have forced some teachers to take on extra duties during their prep periods, according to Labor Notes, which is a violation of their contract.
A CTU strike would be the city’s first teacher strike in 25 years. A strike date has not yet been set, but the soonest they could legally call for a strike would be September 10. Some teachers, whose school year had not yet started, have already been out on the picket line engaging in informational picketing in front of their schools. The school board, for its part, has taken the typical tact of bosses by approving $25 million for “alternative” arrangements, should a strike occur. Ironically, this $25 million, which will likely go to scabs, could have gone a long way toward closing the gap between teachers’ demands and those of the district.