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They’d Rather Not, But: Chicago Teachers Authorize Strike, If Needed, by 95% Margin

Didn't need to rally for this tally: CTU strike authorization was near unanimous

Didn’t need to rally for this tally: CTU strike authorization was near unanimous

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UPDATE: The Chicago Teachers Union Has Set a Strike Date of October 11

There is unrest in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system. On Monday, 27,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted in favor of a strike. It did so by a margin of 95.6%.

The teachers union, which is currently in negotiations with CPS, has been without a contract since June 2015. The union’s House of Delegates will meet Wednesday to discuss their next course of action. One item up for consideration is whether to issue a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education:

“I think the message is very clear…We want a fair contract and we are willing to push it to the point where if we have to go on strike to get that,” [union leader Jim] Cavallero says.

“This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions,” the union said in a written statement.

CTU members voted in favor of a strike last December, as well. They ultimately staged a one-day walkout instead, demonstrating the CTU’s preference for not striking if possible:

The CTU reported that about 2,000 members didn’t vote in December’s strike authorization vote, when 88 percent of its membership approved a possible walkout. State law also requires the union to get 75 percent of its eligible voting members to say yes.

CTU leadership says they don’t want to strike. Negotiations are set to intensify this week with the Board of Education. The union also will hold a special meeting Wednesday for the House of Delegates, the union’s governing body, to talk about the next steps. Setting a strike date falls to the delegates.

The union hopes to exert pressure on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who holds great sway over the negotiation process:

Union President Karen Lewis cast Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s influence as “extraordinarily important” to averting a walkout.

[…] Union leaders say they’re still looking for Emanuel to throw his weight behind getting more money for CPS. Emanuel has pushed a series of tax hikes through the City Council, including a new property tax to bring in $250 million for the underfunded teacher pension system.

CPS enrollment is currently down and school officials say there could be more cuts on the horizon. Up to 300 teachers and staff could be laid off by October 3.

The last time CPS teachers went on strike was in 2012. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey provided insight into the union’s most recent strike vote to the Chicago Tribune:

“I’m saying the thing about strikes is that they put pressure, playbook political pressure, to come up with solutions on how to fund the schools,” Sharkey said. “It has a way of clarifying people’s minds, doesn’t it?”


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