Latino, black aldermen pressure Chicago teachers to end strike

September 17, 2012

Two minority blocs of aldermen are pressuring the Chicago Teachers Union to end its strike and get back to work.

The City Council’s Latino Caucus released a statement Monday calling on teachers to return to class while they finish negotiating their contract with the Chicago Board of Education. Meanwhile, the Black Caucus released a statement late Monday saying it would be a "travesty" if kids aren't back in school by Wednesday.

The calls from the City Council's Latino and Black Caucuses came the same day Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration asked a Cook County judge to force an end to the teachers strike, now in its second week. The judge declined to issue an emergency order Monday. A court date is now set for Wednesday morning, but the city concedes the strike could be over by then.

Alderman Danny Solis, 25th, who chairs the caucus, said Latinos and African-Americans are disproportionately hurt by missing the early days of the school year. And after both sides expressed optimism late last week that students would be back in school by Monday, Solis said he was surprised when the CTU announced late Sunday the strike would go on.

“I don’t think there’s that much left" to negotiate, Solis said. "I think they’re about 99 percent done. We just don’t understand why the teachers can’t finalize it while they’re in the classroom."

The statement from Latino aldermen said they support Emanuel's request for a legal injunction against the union. Solis said he hopes "it’s enough of a threat to maybe get the attention of…some of these union people.”

Alderman Howard Brookins, 21st, who chairs the Black Caucus, stopped short of saying his members support Emanuel's legal maneuver. But he said that could change if the strike drags on.

“I don’t think that our patience, or the patience of the public in general, will continue to hold,” Brookins said.

The union says it's giving its members more time to peruse the district's latest proposal. Its House of Delegates is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon. They could vote then whether to continue the teachers strike, which is Chicago's first in 25 years. 

Aldermen Ray Colon, 35th, signed onto the Latino Caucus' statement. He said the ball is now in the teachers' court.

“At the end of the day, they have the votes on this one," he said. "They don’t have to lobby our vote on this one, we have to lobby theirs.”