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Chicago Teachers Union Files 10-day Strike Notice
The Chicago Teachers Union filed a 10-day strike notice on Wednesday in an attempt to put additional pressure on Chicago Public Schools negotiators in ongoing contract talks. At a packed news conference Wednesday, CTU president Karen Lewis accused CPS leaders and the mayor of engaging in a "smear campaign" against teachers, raising the possibility for the city's first teachers' strike in 25 years.
          
chicagotribune.com

Chicago Teachers Union files 10-day strike notice
By Joel Hood and Noreen Ahmed-Ullah, Tribune reporter, August 29, 2012

The Chicago Teachers Union filed a 10-day strike notice on Wednesday in an attempt to put additional pressure on Chicago Public Schools negotiators in ongoing contract talks.

At a packed news conference Wednesday, CTU president Karen Lewis accused CPS leaders and the mayor of engaging in a "smear campaign" against teachers, raising the possibility for the city's first teachers' strike in 25 years.

"It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough," Lewis said.

By filing the required 10-day notice Wednesday with the CPS school board and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, teachers are eligible to strike beginning on Sept. 10, the start of the second week of school for the majority of CPS students.

The union's House of Delegates will meet Thursday where they will review the district's latest contract offer and likely set a strike date.

"I want to make clear that we will remain at the (negotiating) table until a deal gets done," Lewis said. "We will have a contract and it will come the easy way or the hard way."

Responding to the union’s announcement, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard issued a statement Wednesday evening, saying “everyone knows that a strike would only hurt our kids.”

“(Students) can't afford to be removed from the classroom just as they're making progress with the new full school day,” Brizard said. “That's why we'll continue to meet every day until we reach a fair resolution for our teachers and avoid any disruption to our kids' school year. If CTU leadership decides to strike, we will be prepared to provide our students with the services they need to keep them fed and in a safe environment with positive activities.”

Lewis said the two sides have made strides during contract talks on "small issues," such as winning provisions for teachers who are nursing mothers and ensuring text books for students in schools with limited resources.

But, Lewis said, the biggest issues still remain, such as teacher raises and a re-hiring pool for those who've been laid off. Contract talks will continue all this week, and likely through the weekend, Lewis said.

"CPS seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees," Lewis said.

The teachers have remained angry with CPS administration even after a deal on the longer school day in which the district agreed to hire 477 teachers who had been laid off. That allowed teachers to work the same number of hours even though students are in school longer.
CPS has budgeted spending as much as $25 million on a strike contingency plan. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said CPS is intent on providing a “safe and engaging” environment for as many of the district’s 402,000 students as possible.

The plan would likely include opening some schools and perhaps other city buildings so that students can receive breakfast and lunch and play in organized activities. State law prohibits the district from engaging students in traditional classroom instruction without certified teachers, Carroll said.

“If the Chicago Teachers Union chooses to strike, we'll be prepared to serve our kids,” Carroll said. “Students can't afford to be removed from their classroom at a time when they're starting to make progress with the full school day. They belong in school with their teachers, which is why we need to stay at the table and keep negotiating, every day if needed, until we reach a fair resolution as a strike would only hurt our kids."

Chicago Teachers' Union Press Release

BREAKING NEWS: CTU files notice of intent to strike
For Immediate Release: August 29, 2012
Contact: STEPHANIE GADLIN stephaniegadlin@ctulocal1.com

Chicago Headed Toward First Teachers Strike in 25 Years

CTU files 10-day strike notice with labor board; strike date has not been set

CHICAGO - Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) filed a 10-day notice with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board indicating more than 26,000 public school teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals may go on strike in coming days. The notice is a legal requirement defined by state law. No date for a strike has been set by Union leaders. The House of Delegates will meet Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to talk next steps.

Should CTU members call for a work stoppage, this will be the first “teachers’ strike” in Chicago since 1987. “This is a difficult decision for all of us to make,” said union President Karen Lewis. “But this is the only way to get the Board’s attention and show them we are serious about getting a fair contract which will give our students the resources they deserve.”

“CPS seems determined to have a toxic relationship with its employees,” Lewis said. “They denied us our 4 percent raises when there was money in the budget to honor our agreement; they attempted to ram a poorly thought out longer school day down our throats; and, on top of that they want us to teach a new curriculum and be ready to be evaluated based on how well our students do on a standardized test. It has been insult after insult after insult. Enough is enough.”

CTU has been in contract negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since November 2011. Teachers have been without a contract since June of this year after its five-year agreement with the District expired without a new agreement in place. Labor leaders have said they are negotiating for a “better day, job security and fair compensation for employees.”

Labor talks have been productive on some fronts such as winning provisions for nursing mothers, ensuring textbooks will be available on day one, teachers will have access to functioning computers and counselors and social workers will have appropriate, private workspaces to serve students. But the bigger issues such as wages, job security and evaluations are on the table and the two sides remain far apart. “We will have a contract,” Lewis said, “and it will come the easy way or the hard way. If our members are on the picket-line, we will still be at the negotiating table trying to hammer out an equitable agreement. There’s a larger picture here.”

Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians have been vocal in their opposition to CPS’ draconian policies. In May, nearly 10,000 of them marched in downtown in preparation for a strike authorization vote which drew a 98 percent approval from CTU membership. Only 1.82 percent of CTU members voted against authorizing a strike. Member angst was driven by CPS’ overly aggressive push for a longer school day without indicating how the District would staff and pay for the program. Educators were angry that the Board made no commitments to offering students the much needed art, music, physical education and world language classes they needed.

In July, and much to CPS’ chagrin, a much anticipated “Fact Finder’s Report” recommended, in part, that CPS’s longer school day amounts to a 19.4% increase on average that teachers will have to work, and he determined that CPS cannot expect its employees to work nearly 20% more for free or without fair compensation. Accordingly, the Fact-Finder’s report recommends both a general wage increase and an additional increase due to the length of the school day: A general wage increase of 2.25% for School Year 2012 -- essentially a cost of living increase -- without any changes to existing steps and lanes. He also recommends an additional increase of 12.6% to compensate teachers for working a longer school day and year representing a combined first-year increase of 14.85%, plus existing step and lane adjustments. Both the CTU and the Board rejected the findings.

“We have chronic underfunding and misplaced priorities in the system,” said high school teacher Jen Johnson. “CPS would rather shut down schools rather than give them the resources they need. Thousands of students have been displaced by CPS’ school actions. Teachers are losing their jobs and parents have no choice but to keep their child in an under-resourced neighborhood school or ship them off to a poor-performing charter operation.”

Lewis said members are also concerned about the Board’s plan to close over 100 neighborhood schools and create a half public-half charter school district. “This education crisis is real especially if you are Black or Brown in Chicago,” she explained. “Whenever our students perform well on tests, CPS moves the bar higher, tells them they are failures and blames their teachers. Now they want to privatize public education and further disrupt our neighborhoods. We’ve seen public housing shut down, public health clinics, public libraries and now public schools. There is an attack on public institutions, many of which serve, low-income and working-class families.”

 
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