Teachers Union leaders announce a strike authorization vote next Wednesday

June 1, 2012

Quinn Ford

The Chicago Teachers Union said Friday it will hold a strike-authorization vote beginning Wednesday, June 6th.

Union leaders said they will vote now before the school year ends, so they can reach the required number of union members to authorize a strike. Illinois law requires at least 75 percent of union members to authorize the strike.

Jean-Claude Brizard, the head of Chicago Public Schools, has criticized the union for saying they will vote before any contract proposals have been made public.

But union President Karen Lewis said, by law, they can vote however they wish.

"No one has the authority to tell the Chicago Teachers Union when it should conduct this vote, how it should conduct this vote, who should oversee this vote or how long this vote will be," Lewis said.

Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the union will hold an open vote until there is a clear result one way or the other. He said he expects most members to vote on the first day but says it may take longer. Sharkey said union observers will monitor the vote.

Lewis said this vote does not mean the union will strike, but it will send a "clear message."

"A strike authorization vote is not a vote to go on strike," Lewis said. "We want to avoid a strike. Strikes aren't good for anyone."

Union leaders said it would be easier to take the vote now than in the next couple months when teachers will be on summer vacation.

The union has raised a number of issues: from class size to the unfunded longer school day to a lack of air conditioning in classrooms.