CFL News
June 13, 2012

Chicago Teachers Vote Overwhelming for Strike Authorization as Contract Negotiations Continue

Union to use leverage to fight for smaller class sizes

Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) revealed nearly 90 percent of its eligible members voted to give their labor organization the authority to call a strike should contract negotiations reach an impasse. The Union has been in negotiations with the Chicago Public School system (CPS) since November 2011. A new state law requires a 75 percent of all eligible CTU voters to vote in the affirmative in order to provide strike authorization.

Although both CTU and CPS are in the fact-finding stage of negotiations, the Union pointed out that the independent review will only provide recommendations on a small number of contract concerns. Public school educators say they are fighting for smaller class sizes, art, music, world language and physical education classes for students, and fair compensation for being asked to work under more difficult guidelines as determined by CPS.

Armed with strike authorization, teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians say they believe this will give them more leverage at the bargaining table going forward. Should a strike become necessary, the Union’s 800-member House of Delegates will set the date for a work stoppage.

CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT, said the following during a news conference today:

“We have called you here today to announce the results of the strike authorization vote held last week. The results are not a win. They are an indictment on the state of the relationship between the ‘management’ of CPS and its largest labor force, members of the Chicago Teachers Union. It is also an indictment on the outside groups that seek to destroy the real work being done by Chicago’s teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians.

“We do not understand why Democrats for Education Reform, Education Reform Now and other organizations continue to stand on the backs of our children and profess to care about them when they ignore the harsh realities of their lives. And while our members work in schools that are under-resourced, understaffed and under-appreciated, they have toiled in silence long enough while the mayors of this city have exerted control, shut down schools, and handed over facilities to their well-connected friends.

“The problems with our schools will not be answered by overpaid outside consultants or billionaire education dilettantes but rather by the people who actually work in our schools with our children in full partnership with the District. For some reason, this administration has behaved as if the Union was some out of touch bureaucracy only speaking for ourselves. But the dominant narrative among the so-called Ed Reformers in concert with city’s business fathers and mothers has been that the reason why CPS is in such bad shape is that its teachers are incompetent.

“This new leadership of the CTU were all classroom teachers and paraprofessionals two years ago. We have the pulse of our members. We listened to what they had to say. And we made a plan using the tools and the resources we have. That’s what teachers do. We analyzed the data and adjusted our plans. But all along, we had the feedback of the members in our schools. While the chaos on Clark Street continues, our members, intent on being heard were loud, clear and serious.

“We want a contract that gives Chicago’s Students the Schools They Deserve. So we call on CPS to take the process seriously and negotiate with us in good faith and with an eye on the real prize: Our children.”