Chicago Teachers Strike: Union Has Votes For A Strike,
Union Official Says
By TAMMY WEBBER
The Huffington Post
June 12, 2012
CHICAGO -- Teachers in the nation's third-largest school
district voted overwhelmingly to authorize the first
strike in 25 years if their union and the city cannot
reach a deal on a contract this summer - signaling just
how badly the relationship between teachers and Chicago
school officials has deteriorated, union officials said
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis announced
the result of last week's balloting - nearly 90 percent
of its 26,502 members voted to authorize a strike _and
called it "an indictment of the state of the
relationship between the management of CPS and its
largest labor force members." State law requires 75
Teachers are upset that Mayor Rahm Emanuel canceled
last year's raise and that they're being asked to work
longer days without what they consider to be an
adequate pay increase. Lewis said other key issues
include class size and resources.
A strike wouldn't be called until the beginning of the
next school year, but union leaders could do so without
another vote. They say holding the vote now instead of
later gives the union added leverage at the bargaining
table. It also allowed 1,500 retiring teachers to vote.
"Our members ... were loud, serious and clear," Lewis
said. "We want a contract that gives Chicago students
the school they deserve. So we call on CPSs to take
this process seriously and negotiate with us in good
faith with an eye on the real prize, our children."
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard issued a
statement saying it was "a shame" the union took the
vote before an independent fact-finder presents
recommendations on several contract issues next month
and that he's "disappointed that the union leadership
would rush their members to vote for a strike before
having the complete information on the table."
Lewis said the fact-finder's report will deal with only
a handful of issues, and "we have an entire contract to
District spokeswoman Becky Carroll has said that once
the report comes out, both sides will have 15 days to
accept or reject it, and the union will have 30 days to
decide whether or not to strike. The last Chicago
teachers strike was in 1987, and lasted 19 days.
Much of the teachers' frustration has centered on
Emanuel, who rescinded a 4 percent raise last year and
then tried to go around the union in his push for
longer school days by asking teachers at individual
schools to waive the union contract to work more hours.
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board
subsequently blocked Emanuel's negotiations with
He still was able to lengthen the school day for
children to 7 hours, starting this fall, without the
Emanuel ignored reporters' questions Monday about the
strike authorization. Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah
Hamilton said the public schools cannot afford a
"At a time when our graduation rates and college
enrollments are at record highs - two successes in
which our teachers played an integral role - we cannot
halt the momentum with a strike," she said. "Our
teachers deserve a raise, but our kids don't deserve a
strike and taxpayers cannot afford to pay for 30
The district has proposed a five-year deal that
guarantees teachers a 2 percent pay raise in the first
year and lengthens by 10 percent the amount of time
teachers must spend at school, from 7 hours to 7 hours
and 40 minutes. The union wants a two-year deal that
reduces class size and calls for teachers to receive a
24 percent pay raise in the first year and a 5 percent
pay raise in the second year.
Chicago public school students have the shortest school
day - 5 hours and 45 minutes - among the nation's 50
largest districts, according to a 2007 report from the
National Council on Teacher Quality - part of the
reason Emanuel moved to lengthen it.
But the Chicago Teachers Union said that report did not
track actual classroom time and insisted the amount of
instruction time was on par with other districts.
Associated Press writers Don Babwin and Sophia Tareen
contributed to this report.
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