Is the Chicago Teachers Union going 'on strike' on April Fool's Day?... Just what does that mean in terms of the union's militant history?...

While most of the public was focusing on the elections on Tuesday March 15, 2016, a great deal of discussion was taking place in Chicago's more than 600 real public schools, much of it mired in confusion over what the leaders of the 28,000-member Chicago Teachers Union were asking the union's members to do on April 1, 2016.

The longest strike in Chicago Teachers Union history took place in September 1987, when Jacqueline B. Vaughn was President of the CTU. After a decade of being stalled in negotiations by cynical Board of Educations, Vaughn agreed that the union would implement a "NO CONTRACT. NO WORK" policy in the summer of 1987. As usual, after the previous contract expired on July 1, 1987, the Board's negotiators stalled, and the union's House of Delegates launched the Chicago Teachers Strike of 1987 on the first day of school. Vaughn and some of the union's members were surprised that the Board was so stubborn in its mendacious claim that there was "no money" for a reasonable raise for the union's members (and the members of the other unions, all of which also were on strike). At the time, Harold Washington was Chicago's mayor and Manford Byrd was Schools Supt. But the strike closed the city's schools for the entire month of September 1987, while teachers and other union members picketed at 23 "scab centers" (the Board was unable to open any schools) and at the Board's headquarters at 1819 W. Pershing Road.FACT: The union's members voted in a December 2015 referendum to authorize a strike if a reasonable contract was not reached. By that time, the union's negotiators had been negotiating for more than a year, and the contract had expired on July 1, 2015.

FACT: The union's members (via an entity called the "Big Bargaining Team") rejected what CTU President Karen Lewis had characterized as a serious offer -- in the form of what was at that time called a "TA", for "Tentative Agreement" -- later.

FACT: The Board of Education announced in January 2016 that it was going to take away the seven percent "pension pickup, as of April 1, 2016, then changed its mind. Then...

FACT: CPS CEO Forrest Claypool most recently announced that all union members would be forced to take three "furlough days", the first of which will be on Good Friday, March 25, 2016.

FINAL: Although the union's officers have been talking about a "strike" (or something like it) for April 1, 2016, the union's FAQ on that subject is ambiguous, as are the public statements of union officials in the press. President Karen Lewis calls it a "Day of Action." But on March 16, 2016, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey called it an "Unfair Labor Practices Strike."

FINAL FACT: The union's 800-member House of Delegates, which is composed of elected representatives from all of the city's public schools and all of the groups within the union, doesn't meet until March 23, 2016 (next Wednesday). In August 2012, the union's officers held a mass meeting of the House of Delegates at Lane Technical High School to authorize the setting of the strike date for the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. But the strike itself did not actually begin until the second week of school.

And so discussions have been taking place across the city about what the April 1 "actions" are supposed to be.


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