Chicago Teachers Union rejects 'Tentative Agreement' brought by some of its leaders... Negotiations continue now according to the pre-existing time line... CTU elections to be held in May 2016...

The broad-based leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a 'Tentative Agreement' with the Chicago Board of Education is two swoop on Monday, February 1, 2016, indicating that despite earlier press reports the negotiations between the two sides will continue has they have for more than a year, and the union's 28,000 members will continue working under all of the terms of the old contract, which expired on June 30, 2015.

Karen Lewis (left) and Jesse Sharkey (right) the president and vice president of the 28,000-member Chicago Teachers Union announced on February 1, 2016 that the union was rejecting the school board's contract offer. Negotiators will be returning to the table to continue negotiations which have been going on for more than a year. The last contract expired on July 1, 2015 and the union's members have been working under the terms of the old contract. Tribune photo.The rejection of the so-called 'Tentative Agreement,' which she had supported, was announced by CTU President Karen Lewis at a mid-afternoon press conference at the union's headquarters in Chicago's Merchandise Mart. Specifically, the so-called "Big Bargaining Team" told the union officers that it was rejecting the deal, which had been announced the previous Wednesday. Union leaders and rank-and-file leaders have been meeting for long hours for five days over the issues raised by the TA.

At the union's Executive Board meeting, the union's leaders also decided to continue to send 150 delegates to the national and state conventions. The convention of the 1.5 million member American Federation of Teachers, the first of these, will be held in early July in Minneapolis.


CTU rejects the Board of Education's offer because it fails to address the district's fiscal instability and reductions in education quality


February 1, 2016 312-329-9100

CHICAGO - After much deliberation, the Chicago Teachers Union has rejected the Board of Education's most recent contract proposal because it does not address the difficult conditions in the schools, the lack of services to our neediest students or address the long-term fiscal crisis that threatens to gut public education in the city. Moreover, educators do not believe the Board will honor its promises because it has lacked the will to join with parents, students, community and others in identifying existing revenue solutions that can stabilize the district.

"Chicago Public Schools (CPS) challenges are a revenue-based problem because two of the three biggest cost drivers are things that have to be paid: pensions and debt service (which includes the swap termination payments)," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "The third biggest cost driver is charter school proliferation-and though they've promised to halt charter expansion there is a state commission that can override their decision. There are no guarantees."

Lewis said CTU members have given more than $2 billion back to the district over the last five years, including $500 million from the 4 percent raise that was rescinded in 2011; $500 million from layoffs over this period, including from the school closings; and $1.2 billion from the three- year partial pension holiday between 2011 to 2013.

"Simply signing a contract with CPS will not bring them a windfall of resources from the state," Lewis said. "We have to exhaust every option available, which includes terminating those swap deals, returning the TIFs to the schools and a financial transaction tax that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the city. Without some real movement on the revenue problems, we can't trust that they will honor any words offered in a four-year contract deal."

It should be noted that the CPS bond sale went south last week because investors are skittish about the real financial challenges the district faces. The downgrades came after investors' concerns about the city's inability to raise revenue. Also, the district is using short-term credit lines to manage cash flow because its cash flow is so limited. The money from property taxes is already spent - those short-term lines have to be repaid.

"CPS has been living on borrowing for too long," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. "Now to turn around and blame teachers and staff for that debt while letting bankers off the hook is not acceptable. We think bankruptcy is a bluff, but if it isn't, the mayor and his handpicked school board need to examine our commitments to progressive revenue."

CPS' uses this math to plug its budget hole:

* $200 million from the state for pensions

* $150 million from the state in a school aid formula change

* $170 million from a new local property tax levy for pensions

* $150 to $175 million from eliminating the teacher's pension pickup and from increased healthcare costs.

"That's about $700 million of the claimed $800 million deficit," said Sharkey. "They want us to foot two chunks of that through property tax increases and classrooms cuts. We need a big fix to school funding at the state level through progressive taxes on wealthy people. The Board cannot continue to balance its budget on teachers and students by cutting our compensation and eliminating vital education services such as special education."

The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 27,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU's website at



Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team rejects city's contract offer

Juan Perez Jr. The Chicago Teachers Union has rejected a four-year contract offer from the city, sending talks that have gone on for more than a year into a final stage.

"The real problem is the lack of trust in CPS," CTU President Karen Lewis said at an afternoon press conference.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union 'Big Bargaining Team' spoke to the press at the February 1, 2016 press conference. Substance photo.The union's 40-member "Big Bargaining Team" voted against sending the four-year proposal to the larger House of Delegates. Talks to replace a contract that expired June 30 will now move into a fact-finding stage, which by law must go on for about four months before a strike could occur.

"I know people were expecting something completely different," Lewis said of the union's rejection. "But that's not how we work as the Chicago Teachers Union.

"It doesn't matter what one person wants or what two people want or what three people want. People need to understand that our big bargaining team is an extension of the officers, and the experts and the lawyers who come with us to have conversations with the board."

Chicago Public Schools had offered teachers a four-year deal that would bar economic layoffs, put a cap on privately run charter schools and provide some moderate pay increases, sources said last week. In exchange, union members would have had to make concessions that included paying more toward their pensions and health care expenses.

The district said Monday that its proposal also included a commitment to restore a city property tax levy solely for teacher pensions, a move that would require state approval. In a statement, district CEO Forrest Claypool said he was "disappointed" with the union's decision.

"This agreement provided pay raises, guaranteed job security and met the union's key demands, including restrictions on charter school expansion, raises for seniority in addition to cost-of-living increases, and more classroom autonomy for teachers," Claypool said.

"We are committed to returning to the bargaining table and working around the clock to reach an agreement," he said.

CTU leaders had deemed the city's proposal a "serious offer" in agreeing last week to take it to its bargaining team for a vote.

CPS has for many years picked up 7 percentage points of the 9 percent pension contribution required of teachers and many staff members. Last year, the district ended the practice for its nonunion workers; under the current offer, the practice would be phased out for teachers.

CPS would phase out its longstanding practice to absorb the bulk of teachers' required pension contributions. New hires would have to pick up their entire share of pension costs right away.

CPS also could not increase the number of charter schools beyond the 130 or so that operate now, a source said. The district could approve and open new charter schools if it closes others. The CTU has long opposed the privately run, publicly funded schools, where teachers are not CTU members.

Under state law, the two sides must engage in fact-finding, which involves a representative from each side and a neutral party, for up to 120 days before a strike could take place. Assuming the process gets underway this week, that would extend to the end of May. Final day of classes is set for June 21.

Teachers have already voted to authorize their leaders to call a strike, if deemed necessary.

The union's rejection could impact the district's efforts to add to its already-sizeable debt load in order to stay afloat. The district last week put off a bid to borrow up to $875 million, placing the deal on day-to-day status while courting potential investors.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's was in New York on Monday for meetings with financial institutions, his office said.

CPS already has scaled back the size of the deal by hundreds of millions of dollars, and if it goes through, the district is expected to pay very high interest rates because of its junk bond rating status.

Claypool has said the district expected to complete the deal by early this week at the latest.

In recent days, negotiators on both sides of the table have said that talks have gained steam following Republican proposals to allow a state takeover of the cash-strapped district, and also allow the district to declare bankruptcy.


February 1, 2016 at 10:04 PM

By: George Cruz


What I found most fascinating was the response the CTU leadership stated during the news conference when they admitted they were surprised about the outcome of the bargaining team. It would appear the leadership of the CTU honestly felt that this contract was a good deal, which I find unsettling. I say that because the bargaining team was united in turning down the contract proposal, whereas the CTU leadership felt differently.

I also felt that the CTU leadership was talking from both sides of its mouth. First it's a good serious contract than after it was turned down then there were so many reasons stated as to why it was rejected. It's almost as if the CTU leadership is off in one direction and the rest of the union is in another direction.

The question is what does a good contract look like for both the CTU leadership and it's members? One things for certain taking away the pension pickup is equivalent to taking social security away to a retired person!

I bet his Honor is kicking himself wishing he'd take the 1 year contract deal negotiated back in August.

February 1, 2016 at 10:47 PM

By: LindaReynolds

Public perception

I was afraid this was going to happen. Read the Chicago Tribune. 129 comments 95% of them blasting teachers. Saying things like "hogs get fat, pigs get slaughtered". The public is not happy with us. I'm scared I think it's time I resign!

February 2, 2016 at 4:26 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

'Public' participation... and Tribune's alternative reality

The majority of families in Chicago support Chicago's public school teachers -- which means they are supporting us now. The Tribune's "comments" are filled with anonymous nonsense by trolls (some of whom post several "comments" under different names and pseudonyms). This is WHY Substance requires every person making a comment provide us with their real name. It ends the process of packing "comments" with nonsense, right wing propaganda, and troll insults and slanders. The so-called "Public" in most public comments that allow anonymous and pseudononymous stuff does not exist in the real world. There will be few parents at our schools today who are opposed to what we just voted to do (actually not do). Most want to know how to make our public schools better -- and that means that the real "Public" wants to put more money into the Chicago public schools. The "messaging" challenge comes about only because a handful of union leaders (and a few -- but not many -- union staff) made a big mistake, were brainwashed into doing BOSS THINK for a brief time, and have learned an important lesson in democracy.

February 2, 2016 at 7:17 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Membership has good judgement

In general many members of the public will attack teachers for not taking a pay cut as a trade off for a no layoff provision that was supposed to last for four years. But most members of the public would never enter into a contract of any type of a company that was publicly being discussed as insolvent. Teachers don't have that luxury.

The amount of money CPS is trying to wrench from teachers, inclusive of early retirements, is insufficient for CPS to survive anywhere near four years. Even with restoring a direct property tax for the pension fund, which I support and honestly dread to pay like every other Chicagoan, TIF money, etc CPS is not on a.sustainable pathway without an extensive imposition of measures of austerity, a cash infusion outside of borrowing, and a schedule pf property tax increases that exceed the cap for a number of years.

Therefore in this precarious situation where all long term deals are questionable the validity of a multiple year contract is in question. The school code itself in article 34 offers CPS a blanket escape clause from any long term agreement in the situation of insufficient cash flow in the years to come. The relevant section reads:

"Sec. 34-49. Contracts, expense and liabilities without appropriation. No contract shall be made or expense or liability incurred by the board, or any member or committee thereof, or by any person for or in its behalf, notwithstanding the expenditure may have been ordered by the board, unless an appropriation therefor has been previously made. Neither the board, nor any member or committee, officer, head of any department or bureau, or employee thereof shall during a fiscal year expend or contract to be expended any money, or incur any liability, or enter into any contract which by its terms involves the expenditure of money for any of the purposes for which provision is made in the budget, in excess of the amounts appropriated in the budget. Any contract, verbal or written, made in violation of this Section is void as to the board, and no moneys belonging thereto shall be paid thereon."

So in each and every year of a contract if the Board determines it can't appropriate sufficient funds to employ the current number of teachers with out layoffs the contract could in theory by law be voided. The School Code superceeds the contract, in fact all contracts. The union would of course be free in that situation to strike because the Board voided its own protection over CTU strikes by entering into bargaining over layoffs that under existing law they did not have to do. The the CTU could also litigate for potential damages to members based on false representations on the part of CPS.

There are many readers of this paper that would argue the financial sector of Chicago and the most wealthy citizens should simply be billed for schools in a manner sufficient to appropropriately fund CPS. Existing law does not grant such powers to school boards or really even to the City of Chicago under the home rule provisions. Even if such powers were somehow granted to CPS and or the City by the Illinois General Assembly, very unlikely in my opinion, it would be vetoed by the Governor and there would not be sufficient votes to override right now. To force that matter by mass mobilization of people is hard to imagine because people outside the city have different interests relating to this issue than those of us resident in the city.

All this leads to a conclusion, keep the contract length as short as possible. If the membership feels compelled to give back money it should be in as small of chunks as possible. This situation has been developing for a long time and it is horrible for teachers, families of students, and taxpayers. But we are deep in it now and the situation will not be easily fixed.

Rod Estvan

February 3, 2016 at 7:49 AM

By: Todd Frantz

Labor Relations Board

George, What is the union's recourse if the State Labor Relations Boards reject/dismiss the union's unfair labor practice complaint. Does the union have any recourse above that or our we always going to be blocked by Gov. Ruiners appointees. It seems like am impossible position? Thanks in advance. Todd Frantz, Amundsen HS

February 3, 2016 at 12:12 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Civil Disobedience, our 'Recourse' when the law if illegal or immoral?

Readers, both on line and at meetings, have been asking what "recourse" the CTU will have if the IELRB blocks the union's complaint (because its members have been appointed by Governor Bruce Rauner). That's a very good questions -- more so during "Black History Month." What should be the response to illegitimate authority and laws that discriminate -- whether against the children of Birmingham (and more than a dozen states) in the late 1950s or against those children's teachers today?

The answer is throughout U.S. history and also in the history of the Chicago Teachers Union: "civil disobedience" in the form of a strike.

A faction of the Chicago Teachers Union (the FTBs) led the city's first "teacher strike in 1968 -- when the union leadership (which was pretty racist back then) declared the strike an "Illegal wildcat..." blah blah blah. More than 100 schools were shut down, and when all the fulminating was done, the teachers who had struck began gaining power within the CTU and in the schools. And nobody was fired for that act of Civil Disobedience.

During the next decade, the Chicago Teachers Union, under the leadership of Bob Healey and Jackie Vaughn, went on strike at least five times -- ILLEGALLY.

Illinois did not pass an education collective bargaining law until after the CTU had been striking regularly -- and winning better and better contracts -- throughout the 1960s and 1970s. All of the earliest strikes I was on (1971, 1975... etc. I was working to end the Vietnam War and not in CPS for the 1973 strike) were "illegal."

Just like most of the direct actions that the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen with whom I worked ended the Vietnam War. (See "Sir No Sir!" or read "Soldiers in Revolt" to update that bit of history, which has been whited out of many history books)...

Direct against against injustice (like the current nonsense at CPS) or evil (like slavery) is as old and as "American" as apple pie (to indirectly quote a great philosopher of the Civil Rights Era...).

That's always our option, just as our brothers and sisters have been exercising in Detroit. And as long as we have a strong political action team, and direct election of local judges, does anyone believe a judge in Chicago is going to be very nasty against Chicago's 28,000 union teachers -- and all our supporters.

Bruce Rauner became governor by a combination of accident and bad judgment on the part of a faction of the Democratic Party. Michigan and Wisconsin are paying for their mistakes, having given power to guys like Rauner (Snyder in Michigan; Walker in Wisconsin). But that's another story.

Just about every hero and heroine we will begin writing about again in our Black History Month series will have taken part in some or a lot of Civil Disobedience. It was and is as American as Sweet Potato Pie...

February 3, 2016 at 11:14 PM

By: George Cruz

CTU Recommendation

The best recommendation for the CTU is enter into a 1 year only contract with CPS. The future is to uncertain with dangerous mines at every turn. Teachers can either take a hit with the pension but risk the collapse of CPS. Or they can take a stand and push back without such drastic give backs. After all, there might not be a CPS left after a long term contract is signed. Hopefully, the politicians will do there job and raise a dedicated tax , declare a tif surplus to CPS, along with the speaker and president of senate use their super veto proof majorities to funnel money to CPS to close its budget hole.

Not to mention CPS needs to elimate its patronage bureaucracy by eliminating the Network Offices along with 2/3 of Central Office. After all, what was the term that every CPS CEO used ..."they cut to the bone ". Only then should teachers commit long term. But one things certain for sure, taking away the 7% pension pickup within the start of 30 days was the last straw.

February 4, 2016 at 4:39 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

Teachers deserve a raise, not additional cuts...

As a very good contemporary example of how every ruling class frames the "narrative" about current events, the claim by Chicago's rulers that CPS is "Broke" is only vaguely true. Despite the silly attempt by a faction of the leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union to do the "Broke on Purpose" narrative, in alliance with the CTU, the latest financial information about Chicago public schools finances shows a much much more complex picture. On the one hand, the ruling class brags about how robust Chicago's economy is, and anyone checking out the city's bourgeois neighborhoods can see growth both in residential and commercial properties. Those properties, in turn, produce additional local property tax revenues for the two largest tax systems in Chicago -- the City of Chicago and the Chicago Board of Education (which are separate taxing bodies). By March 31, the first round of property tax revenues for 2016 will be in the bank accounts of the Chicago Board of Education. As the recent CAFRs have shown, CPS property tax revenues have been increasing -- INCREASING -- despite all the narratives to the contrary. Instead of accepting the silly (and counter productive) narrative about "crisis" and "broke") the union's leaders must begin to break with the official version of ruling class reality and demand not austerity from the union's members, but a decent raise. The 2012 contract with all of its concessions (including the four percent raise "lost" from the 2011 - 2012 school year) was only a "victory" for the union's members because the union was still getting organized for a fight. Now the issue is strategy -- and the leadership must begin fighting for raises for those who work in one of the worlds most challenging school system. The sellout "crisis" narrative has to end from our side. Now.

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