Chicago Teachers Union officially announces that there will not be a May 1 one-day 'strike'... union's members still awaiting the actual contract while living in a contractual haze over questions like whether 'furlough days' are a contract violation!...

Several things were unique when the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike for seven school days in September 2012, the first CTU strike in 25 years. Whereas previous picket signs had read CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION ON STRIKE FOR OUR CONTRACT, the new union leadership (which took over in July 2010) decided that the public schools were on strike, so most of the signs read CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS ON STRIKE FOR A FAIR CONTRACT. Whether the resultant agreement, which gave up a four-percent pay raise from the 2011 - 2012 school year, was best for the union's members continues to be debated heatedly in 2017. On April 5, 2017, the union's House of Delegates backed off a threatened one-day "strike" for May 1, 2017. Following weeks of tense discussions in the schools and on line, the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union decided at the union's House of Delegates meeting on April 5, 2017 that the union would not do a second one-day so-called "strike" on May 1, 2017. The decision came after the union's officers told the delegates that meetings in the schools had made it clear that the majority of the members did not want to do a second one-days "strike" (the previous one-day "strike" was held on April 1, 2016). [Disclosure: This reporter and many members of the Substance staff are elected members of the CTU House of Delegates].

By April 3, 2017, when the union's Executive Board met to set the agenda for the April 5 House of Delegates meeting, it was clear that the majority of the union's rank and file members in the schools were opposed to the suggested one-day "strike." In many schools, including some of the union's most solid high schools, the opposition to a second one-day "strike" was unanimous. Union officers told the delegates that they had been at many school meetings and had heard the voice of the rank and file. Skepticism about the terms of the current contract (which goes from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2019) added to the opposition to another one-day event. Many members also rejected the statements by union officers that the April 1, 2016 "strike" had been the decisive reason why CPS stopped trying to impose and end to the seven percent pension pickup.

But as union members learned, instead of taking away the "pension pickup," the Board of Education was able to win a two-year pay freeze in the deal agreed to by the union's leadership at the last minute before a contract strike on Columbus Day 2016. As of April 5, 2017, the union's members still did not have a full copy of the new contract, so much of the discussion of whether certain things, such as the furlough days, were taking place in a kind of contractual haze.


CTU says teachers will be in class May 1, by Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune on line April 5, 2017. In print April 6, 2017

Chicago Teachers Union members will remain on the job May 1 after union leaders on Wednesday called off consideration of a one-day walkout.

"Our members weren't for it," CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters after a meeting of the union's House of Delegates. "They didn't want to do it."

But union officials said the CTU could still carry out actions to protest the threat of an early end to the school year, which Chicago Public Schools officials have said may be necessary without a last-minute infusion of money to settle this year's budget.

Union officials said teachers would stay on the job but find other ways to show support for worker demonstrations planned for May Day. That's when a coalition of labor groups plan to carry out citywide demonstrations and a downtown march to protest Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and President Donald Trump.

Lewis said her members "are frustrated and outraged that the mayor and his handpicked board of education have chosen to take the skin off our backs to alleviate a budget crisis that their leadership has created."

"Our schools need resources and infrastructure — not consolidation, cuts and school closures," she said.

CTU last month asked teachers to discuss a proposal to stage a one-day walkout to bring attention to the budget problems at CPS that have prompted the threat of an early end to the school year.

Lewis and union officials have argued that ending the school year as many as three weeks ahead of schedule would violate the union's contract. But the one-day strike idea had faced some skepticism from members as well as legal opposition from CPS.

CPS restarted an effort to block teachers from walking out after state officials rejected a district request to enforce a ruling that a similar one-day strike by CTU last April likely violated state law.

Hearings to argue the issue before the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board are pending.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner did not say whether the district would continue to pursue a court decision to block the union from carrying out a one-day strike in the future. The district's attorneys will assess the situation "once we have all the facts," she said.

The CTU is fighting a series of cost-cutting efforts CPS has employed to close part of a looming year-end budget gap. That includes three remaining furlough days — one on Friday and two more in June.

The union continues to call for the city to reinstate furlough days rather than end the school year early, support an elected school board and send additional money to the school district from city tax-increment financing funds.

Lewis said a walkout is not yet out of the question if the district moves ahead with cutting the academic year short.

"There's nothing off the table. Nothing would be off the table," Lewis said. "The key to this is, is basically, an abrogation of our contract. We signed a contract. And now they've altered an entire salary schedule, basically. They've altered that by insisting on these furlough days."

Whether CPS will actually cut short the school year — an idea that's said to be vehemently opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel — remains to be seen.

The district, in a court filing over its ongoing education funding lawsuit against the state of Illinois this week, rejected the state's claim that CPS can borrow money to avoid an early end to the school year.

But in legal documents filed Monday, the district provided no direct answers on its finances.

Instead, CPS said it may provide sworn testimony on the issues officials say are forcing tough choices such as closing schools about three weeks early and drastically cutting summer school programs.