Despite officers' claims and manipulative pre-House of Delegates press conference, majority of CTU members are opposing another one day so-called 'strike'...
Despite claims by the officers of the Chicago Teachers Union that the one-day so-called "strike" on April 1, 2016 won great victories for the city's public schools and the union's members, calls by the union's leadership for another one-day "strike" on May 1, 2017 are being met with huge resistance in the city's 600 public schools and among the union's more than 26,000 members. Even the attempt by the four CTU officers to promote the "strike" with a press conference in advance of the March 8 meeting of the union's House of Delegates (before the delegates from the schools had even begun to discuss the issues, let alone discuss it with their schools' members) have largely failed, and in many cases have angered both the delegates and the members. Whatever claims are being made that the union's members must "do something" in the face of the latest round of cuts in the city's public schools, reprising the event of April Fool's Day 2016 is not high on the majority's list.
The time to have struck was in October 2016, according to a growing number of CTU members. That's when the leadership pushed through a last-minute settlement after nearly a year and a half of negotiations following the expiration of the previous contract.
But an October 2016 strike (one month before the November election) didn't happen. Despite claims that the last-minute deal arranged over the Columbus Day holiday weekend in October 2016 was a "victory," the majority of the union's members have been learning the hard way that it was not. On December 23, 2016, union members were shocked to learn that the "retroactive pay" they were promised was small or non-existent. The reason? The union contract had agreed to a pay freeze for the first two years of the contract, thereby negating any "retro pay" for anyone except those still entitled to receive some increase to their lanes and steps.
But an even bigger shock came in January, when the Board of Education announced it would force everyone to absorb four "furlough days" between February and June 2017. The imposition of the furlough days means an additional two percent pay increase for everyone for the 2016 - 2017 school year. As a result, by the time of the March 8 House of Delegates meeting, those still inclined to defend the contract were virtually in hiding, while critics, representing the majority of the union members from their schools, were angry and saying it.
Between the realization that the union had agreed to a pay freeze for the first two years of the four-year contract and that the union was unable to fend off an additional two percent pay cut (the result of the four furlough days imposed in 2017 by the Board of Education), it became increasingly untenable for anyone to claim victory -- except perhaps those who didn't want another Chicago teachers strike against the former White House Chief of Staff, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a month before most Democrats were confident that Hillary Clinton would win the White House easily.
The deal agreed to by the Chicago Teachers Union was approved narrowly by the union's "Big Bargaining Team" after it was brought to them at the last minute on Columbus Day. Following an incomplete discussion of the actual terms of the contract and a quickie motion to close debate, the union's House of Delegates voted to recommend the Columbus Day deal to the membership, which approved it in a referendum. The contract extends from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019.
Early on March 8, the CTU issued the following press release regarding the press conference that was to take place prior to the House of Delegates meeting:
PRESS AVAILABILITY... CTU officers to hold press availability today regarding House of Delegates agenda
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Ronnie Reese
March 8, 2017 312-329-6235
CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis and Vice President Jesse Sharkey, Recording Secretary Michael Brunson and Financial Secretary Maria Moreno will be available this afternoon to address reports regarding tonight’s CTU House of Delegates meeting where discussion will begin around possible action in conjunction with city and nationwide May 1st activities.
Please note that no vote on any May 1 action is planned at this time, and no Union action will be taken until discussed and approved by the House of Delegates and general membership. The press briefing will be at 3:30 p.m. in room 125 at the CTU Center, 1901 W. Carroll Ave.*
*Please use the entrance on the east side of the building nearest the intersection of Carroll and Wolcott avenues.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 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 the CTU website at www.ctunet.com.
The press conference opened the door to major media coverage of the proposed second one-day "strike" as the following reports show. First, the Chicago Tribune, then others:
CHICAGO TRIBUNE REPORT ON THE ONE-DAY PROPOSED STRIKE...
Chicago Teachers Union threatens 1-day walkout in May
Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks in Chicago about the budget crisis June 2, 2016. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)
Juan Perez Jr.Contact Reporter
The Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday opened the door to a one-day walkout on May Day to bring attention to the "acute crisis" facing city schools, one that Chicago Public Schools officials warn could put an early end to the school year.
"If the board goes ahead with the threat of canceling three weeks of school, we would view their action as a massive violation of our contract," CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters gathered at the union's new headquarters in the West Town neighborhood. "And that could provoke a strike."
At an early evening meeting, the union's House of Delegates approved a monthlong discussion period before an April 5 vote on a May 1 strike date. If approved by members, the walkout would cut a day of classroom instruction and prompt new arguments about whether CTU can strike outside strict limits set by state law.
Union officials did not specify how a strike would comply with those laws. Nor did Lewis directly answer an inquiry about how the walkout would be consistent with a letter she wrote to district negotiators after a one-day work stoppage last April that said the union would not engage in another strike unless it played out under state law.
The idea for a May 1 strike emerged from discussions with the union's executive board, Lewis said.
"Some people will say, 'Well, if you strike, won't you be losing another day of pay?' But I would say if we don't fight back, if we stay at home and they threaten us with furloughs and school closures, if we cower under the covers, then we are never going to stop these fights," she said.
By threatening a walkout, the union is attempting to up its leverage in the district's ongoing budget battle with Gov. Bruce Rauner. Amid ongoing financial woes, CPS has ordered budget cuts the district says are necessary because of Rauner's veto of legislation that would have provided $215 million in state aid.
State to file response to CPS lawsuit against Rauner by end of month
State to file response to CPS lawsuit against Rauner by end of month
Rauner's veto, which his office blamed on Democrats backing out of tying the aid to broader pension reform, "blew a hole in the CPS budget that is forcing painful choices, and we should all work to avoid students losing days of instruction and teachers losing days of pay," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement Wednesday in response to the CTU's threatened strike.
CTU officials reiterated their demands for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to tap city tax increment financing funds and for new taxes to bail out CPS, absent action from Rauner. Lewis also called on the district to reverse course on a planned April 7 furlough day — one of four ordered by CPS to save money — as a show of good faith. The district had suggested the union carry out a potential walkout on that date.
In addition to the furlough days and frozen school budgets, CPS has warned the school year could end early and summer school could be cut if the district doesn't see action in Springfield or win a preliminary ruling in its ongoing legal challenge to the state's education funding system.
"The best thing you can do in the face of starvation of the schools is take your case to the public," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday.
CTU's one-day walkout last April, which was called amid stalemated contract talks, prompted a legal challenge from CPS. The state's educational labor board agreed to ask a judge to issue a temporary injunction against similar strikes.
Lewis on Wednesday credited last year's April 1 walkout with bringing new money to the school district and helping the union land a contract later that year. She said the district has violated the contract signed minutes before a strike deadline in October by threatening an early end to the school year that would cut pay for teachers.
"How is them taking three weeks out of our school day, instructional time, how is that legal?" Lewis said.