CPS wants to monitor teachers union strike authorization vote

June 6, 2012

Becky Vevea

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(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)
Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis presents her union card at King College Prep Wednesday before casting her ballot in the union's strike authorization vote.

Teachers are voting at hundreds of Chicago Public Schools this week on whether to authorize a strike.

If at least 75 percent of teachers across the city check "yes," the union can call a strike if it does not agree with the district on a new contract.

CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said the district wants to track the process to make sure it’s done fairly.

"We want to make sure there’s integrity in the process,” Brizard said.

State law signed last year raised the bar for the Chicago Teachers Union. Lawmakers and outside education reform groups pushed to increase the number of "yes" votes required to 75 percent of the union membership, rather than 50 percent plus one.

But the law did not define when a strike authorization could take place. Brizard said taking a vote before an independent fact finder has a chance to issue his contract recommendations is “premature.” That report is due in mid-July.

The CTU announced its plans to hold the vote last week. Union president Karen Lewis said the voting would continue “until there is a clear result one way or the other.”

A law firm representing CPS contacted the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Monday and requested any documents and records regarding the vote.  

The exhaustive list includes a sample ballot, an official list of voters, locations where ballots are cast and counted and the names of every member the union attempts to personally contact after the initial phase of voting.

Brizard would not say whether the district planned to file a legal challenge or if it would lobby for a change in the law.

Lewis called the district’s request “desperate” and said CPS shouldn’t be telling teachers how to run their union.

Contract negotiations have largely focused on teacher salaries and benefits. The union asked for a 29 percent raise over two years, while the district put a one-year, 2 percent raise on the table.

Listen to Lewis explain the union’s pay raise request:

raise explanation.mp3

In Chicago, other things, like class size and length of school day and year, are not on the table unless CPS agrees to negotiate them.

Parents dropping their students off Wednesday morning said they understand arguments on both sides.

Joyce Rufus said teachers deserve to get a raise, considering the school day will be getting longer next year.

“They need the extra money. They need more money than anybody in the world ‘cause they have your kids… Whatever they demanding they should get.”

Listen to parents react to the strike authorization vote:

 

Listen to teachers Samantha Sims and Faye Lynn at King College Prep talk about the contract and whether they deserve a raise:

teachers.mp3

Listen to Jean-Claude Brizard answer questions from reporters this morning on the far South Side:

brizard.mp3

Listen below to hear Lewis take questions from reporters after casting her vote Wednesday morning at King College Prep:

Lewis Q&A.mp3

Linda Lutton contributed reporting.