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Oct. 17, 2019 will be an important day — and not because it’s National Pasta Day. The day should be marked in the calendar because as of 12:01 a.m., the Chicago Teachers Union will officially be on strike.
The union members overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike if contract talks continue to stall despite continued negotiations between the CTU and Chicago Public Schools. If the CTU fails to reach a deal, it will be the third time in seven years that the union has gone on strike.
What are the union’s demands?
The CTU is asking for better pay and benefits, more staff (particularly nurses, counselors, and librarians) and a hard cap to reduce class sizes. However, the CTU said that “student learning also depends on what happens outside the classroom.” Their final demand encompasses several social justice issues, including affordable housing and greater protections for undocumented students.
Why are the talks stalling?
Although the city offered 16% raises to CPS teachers over the next five years, the CTU is currently refusing to sign a contract without more staff and smaller class sizes. While CPS says they are committed to adding more positions, the union wants it written in its contract.
What about Chicago’s other unions? What about the students affected?
Chicago Park District workers also threatened to strike, but they later reached a contract agreement with the city. Out of Chicago’s 25 unions, the CTU is the only one that has not reached an agreement with the city.
CPS says school buildings will remain open during the strike, and non-union workers will be available to “greet students and ensure they have engaging activities.” They will continue to provide meals to students during school hours, but after school activities and school transportation will stop.
What happens next?
If the CTU and CPS fail to reach an agreement and CTU strikes on Oct. 17, the city might seek a court injunction. The city could argue that CTU either isn’t bargaining in good faith or that they are on an illegal strike (under state law, the union can only strike over certain demands such as health and pay benefits).