District, union prepare for possible strike

As both sides brace for a potential strike, they say progress is being made at the negotiating table.

August 20, 2012

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(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
Azuela Elementary students head toward the informational picket line in front of their school.
(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)

The Chicago Teachers Union this morning kicked off what it says will be a week of informational picketing at schools, while Chicago Public Schools also began ramping up preparations for a potential teachers strike.

Horns blared out in support as cars drove by a line of teachers carrying picket signs and handing out flyers outside Azuela Elementary near Midway Airport.

On its web site and in emails to teachers, the union declared, “Every CTU member MUST attend at least one picket!” The union also assigned teachers who haven’t yet started the new school year to picket outside schools that have.

Kimberly Bowsky, a teacher at Seward Elementary in Back of the Yards, said teachers need support from parents to get a fair contract.

“We love their children, we support their children. The teachers and their union, we are the ones who are gonna fight for more resources in the classroom,” said Bowsky.

Some parents responded coolly to the picket line their children had to walk by. But parent Marisa, who declined to give her last name, was sympathetic.

“I volunteer in the school and they work so hard,” she said, adding that one second grade teacher has a class of 37 children. 

The district and union have agreed on terms of a longer school day, but are still talking about wages and rules around the rehiring of laid off teachers. The teachers' contract expired June 30.

School starts for the majority of the district’s schools the day after Labor Day.

A 30-day “cooling off” period expired over the weekend. It’s possible the union could vote to file a 10-day strike notice as soon as Wednesday at a special House of Delegates meeting.

That same morning, the Chicago’s Board of Education is set to consider a strike contingency plan. The school board agenda includes a resolution "authorizing the development and implementation of a plan to provide student and family support in the event the Chicago Teachers Union chooses to strike."

“We want to be prepared to provide critical services to children in our system who are most in need, and this would simply allow us to do that,” said district spokeswoman Becky Carroll. The details of the contingency plan won’t be made public until the board meets Wednesday, according to the district’s web site.

Despite strike preparations, both sides say progress is being made in negotiations.