The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) decided to strike, which began today after the union’s House of Delegates turned down the latest offer from the Board of Education.

Over 300,000 students did not have school on Thursday. They may not have school on Friday.

Demands

In order to help parents with the students, the Board of Education allowed schools to remain open with principals and non-union staff. The students have access to breakfast, lunch, and dinners.

Illinois’ laws limit teachers to strike “over pay and compensation issues.” The union has a laundry list of demands:

  • 15% base-pay raises over three years
  • Affordable housing for new teachers and homeless students
  • Want guarantees for lower class sizes
  • More nurses, librarians, social workers, and counselors
  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plans

Affordable housing has become a popular subject when it comes to the bargaining table:

Increasingly in today’s economy though, housing, social justice and other quality of life issues will be negotiating points in contract talks, according to Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “It seems like school districts are beginning to see housing affordability as a piece of the puzzle to make their school districts attractive,” he said.

More often though, affordable housing for teachers and other school employees is an issue dealt with at the policy level, with local and state governments dedicating funding to housing.

Barbara Raphoon, a certified school nurse, told The Chicago Tribune she shares her services with four schools. The school district assigned her to six schools in 2018:

“These kids are sick,” Raphoon said of her patients as she stood in a picket line outside CPS headquarters Thursday. “A lot of them have chronic illnesses. Diabetes, seizures, medications, ADHD. We just got one in with post-traumatic stress. She’s a kindergartner.

“It’s a lot. These kids need somebody.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has hopes the two sides can reach an agreement soon. The union has “something in writing about class size,” but CTU President Jesse Sharkey does not think an agreement will happen today:

“Details matter here. It’s about adequacy, it’s about if we can provide relief in the places that need relief. I think what you saw in schools across the city (today) is that teachers have been taking a hard swallow. That comes when you see something that’s wrong and you just can’t do anything about it,” Sharkey said.

Sharkey said he thinks something meaningful can be done Thursday evening but said it’s highly unlikely there will be a deal done by end of the day.“We’re going to work for the rest of the day,” he said. He also mentioned that they will likely not bargain through the night, calling it “not a productive use of time.”

Protest

The negotiations between the city and CTU ended just in time for the planned protest throughout the city. Teachers and supporters gathered outside of the Chicago Public School headquarters.

Cross the Picket Line?

Sharkey acknowledges some teachers do not want to miss a paycheck. But what if a teacher crosses the picket line? The CTU will treat them as a disease:

But if that were to happen, the Chicago Teachers Union has rules about the potential consequences for so-called scabs. Someone who crosses a picket line could face “appropriate charges” by the CTU executive board and then go through a judicial process akin to a trial. If found guilty, scabs could be fined, or even expelled.

Under the bylaws of the Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents striking CPS support staff, strikebreaking and “gross disloyalty or conduct unbecoming a member” are among 11 chargeable offenses.

Teachers do not have to join a union in order to keep their job. TeacherFreedom.org has information to help teachers leave the union.

 
 
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