Chicago Teachers Union to discuss terminating contract

August 23, 2011

The Chicago Teachers Union said it will consider terminating its contract with the district at a Tuesday afternoon meeting, a move that would bring teachers one step closer to a strike.

The union said negotiations with Chicago Public Schools over teacher pay raises have broken down. The district is sticking to an earlier decision to skip the raises altogether as it stares down a more than $700 million deficit for next year.

Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the teachers have presented a proposal to district officials that includes cost of living increases smaller than the four percent they'd been expecting, but the district wouldn't have it.

"We were disappointed to discover that, in fact, they came into those negotiations with their mind really pretty much already made up, that they weren't gonna give us anything," Sharkey said.

In addition to the wage-related proposal, the union also wants the district to change rules for teacher discipline and layoffs, and stop doing business with several big banks it says are responsible for the greatest number of Chicago home foreclosures.

But negotiations should be limited to wages, said Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll.

"They're not interested in real negotiation," Carroll said. "They have a coordinated campaign to push an anti-corporate message. This doesn' thave anything to do with teachers."

It's on the teachers union to come up with a way to pay for the scheduled wage increase, Carroll said.

Sharkey says the purpose of Tuesday's meeting with labor leaders and members is to talk about what to do next. A contract termination could make for a free-for-all: With no contract in place, Mayor Rahm Emanuel could push his call for a longer school day, but the district also would no longer be protected from a strike.