Report on the special, emergency meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates on October 16, 2019

The pre-meeting Question and Answer period began at 4:15 p.m. I was outside the CTU building for the entire time of the pre-meeting Question and Answer period tending to other duties and was not present for any of this part of the meeting. All of the information provided comes from my brother, retiree delegate Larry Milkowski.

A question was asked about the mayor’s lies and what to expect from the SEIU union and Park District plans. President Jesse Sharkey said there is more at stake than salary and that the CTU has still not received any proposals on class size and staffing in writing. The mayor is not being truthful and the CTU will give regular daily updates.

Someone asked about retaliation for non-union members who honor our picket lines. Labor law protects everyone who honors a legal strike. Another person asked, "Should counselors do SEL as prep time for teachers?" The answers was no. SEL should be incorporated into a regular school day. Counselor duties are still a subject of negotiations to protect their counseling time.

One school has an ACT test planned for Saturday. Can counselors run the test if they are paid by ACT? The answer was “No”

One delegate asked about repercussions for a strike, of more school closings. Even if this is a possibility there will not be any recommendation to postpone a strike.

A special ed teacher was concerned about IEPs not including 504s. The CTU is demanding that 504s be included in IEPs but so far the CPS is not going along with it.

Frank McDonald from Washington High wants to be sure that specific quotas and class size agreements are brought to the Houser in writing. Jesse stated that it is up to the House of Delegates to decide if any agreement is good enough.

People who have work visas might be targeted and told to swipe in at different locations. Jesse said that everyone, including aliens, are protected by labor law.

A delegate asked about the proposal to have 25 steps in the salary schedule. Jesse said so far the CPS is still saying no to this idea.

Another delegate asked about health care as some of the material provided tonight only refer to mental health and therapy demands. She wondered is this all we are asking for. Jesse said no, that we are asking more benefits.

Lastly, professional development that was to take place on the weekend is unpaid. Jesse said that no one should work without pay.

At this point the regular meeting began at 4:45 p.m. as scheduled. The rest of the report is reported by me. This was less of a meeting and more of a pep rally.

I. Officer Reports

A. Recording Secretary Christel Williams-Hayes said the school system is broken and faults Mayor Lightfoot for canceling classes. She said that the administrators could have handled it. As Christel is a paraprofessional, she stressed that the CTU is working to increase the wage of every para.

B. Financial Secretary Maria Moreno said that after starting negotiations 10 months ago there was no movement until October 2 when the House set a strike date. She said “We have to have things in our contract that improve our working conditions.”

C. Vice President Stacy Davis Gates first gave kudos to the big bargaining team for the work they have been doing, saying that “they have your back. She said that we didn’t go into teaching just for a paycheck and benefits, that we have concerns for students. I think she got a little misty eyed as she described the poor conditions in the schools when she started working for the CPS about 10 years ago,

II.President’s Report on Negotiations

Jesse said we have made some progress but not enough. He expects the CPS to start putting things in writing after the strike begins but that any offers would be “..half a loaf.”

At this point he started to go through an 8 page summary of the CPS proposals and CPS responses, if any. He said delegates may ask questions with a five minute time limit on each page. No one asked questions. Everyone but one delegate who went to the mic had some strong comments, among them were:

Sue Sebesta – We cannot agree to a five year contract.

Alix Gonzalez – We need to expand sustainable community schools.

Tom Lalagos – He serves on the class size panel and will resign if class sizes are not reduced. He doesn’t want to be part of a sham. One delegate stressed that veteran teachers are at the top of the pay scale in 14 years and hence have not had a raise. She said we need more steps. The Ravenswood School delegate said that elementary prep time has to be gained. Without it, it is a deal-breaker. Frank McDonald said that if we have to still deal with REACH, then we need a 5% raise per year as compensation

Regarding REACH, the Fulton School delegate said teachers are required to provide documentation as part of their evaluation but the evaluators are NOT required to read any of it. Our proposals are that the evaluators be required to read it but CPS responded that the evaluators would not have time to read all that material.

Delegate Oscar Ortiz asked about how are teachers to deal with kids who are incorrigible. Jesse said that this comes down to proper staffing in the schools. CPS proposes to increase the number or nurses, social workers, or clinicians by 20%, but that a school would only get one new person of those possible positions. It would be up to the principal to decide on which type of position to fill.

At this point a motion passed to move the agenda and the House voted unanimously to start the strike tomorrow.

Then the mic was open again for any questions. One delegate asked why we can’t retire after 20 years like the police or fire personnel? Jesse said that that is based on State law and besides, their pensions are not as good as ours.

There was concern over co-operating with the SEIU local as word spread that the Mayor cut a deal with one of them. Jesse said we will still try to work with the remaining SEIU local but he added that most of them are low wage people and if we are out for any length of time that this would impose a major hardship on many of those workers.

The delegate from Twain School stated that veteran teachers, who already have their sick day bank filled up, would like to see more sick days officially be made into PBs so there is less likely to be repercussions for using them.

At this point Jesse stopped the meeting to invite the media in. It was about 6:20 p.m.


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