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Strike continues as teachers weigh contract proposal

Across Chicago, teachers are wading through the 180-page contract proposal as the strike continues into its second week. Union delegates are scheduled to take another vote on Tuesday, but the city is seeking legal action to force teachers back into classrooms.

SHARE Strike continues as teachers weigh contract proposal
Teachers met outside Paul Robeson school.

Teachers met outside Paul Robeson school.

Becky Vevea/WBEZ

As the Chicago teacher’s strike entered its second week, union members spent less time on the picket line Monday morning as they shifted their attention to dissecting the latest contract proposal.

A group of teachers from McAuliffe Elementary School met at Township, a Logan Square cafe.

Teachers met outside Paul Robeson school. (Becky Vevea/WBEZ)

Dressed in red shirts, they ate breakfast and drank coffee as they flipped through the latest contract proposal. CTU delegate Scott McNulty said being here and talking with one another was part of their picket.

“Essentially this is democracy at work. We made sure we were at a place that was in the community and supporting local businesses. And we wanted our staff to really know what they were making a decision on and then telling me how they want to proceed.”

The teachers were having a lively and contentious conversation with one another. McNulty encouraged them to “act like teachers and take turns.”

Before heading off to the ten other schools that he oversees as a strike coordinator he said, “[It’s a] massive amount of pressure to make this kind of decision this fast. I mean we are about 350,000 students being out for two more days. You have to think before you do something. And that’s what we tell our kids think before you act.”

Meanwhile, standing along 69th Street in Englewood, Robeson High School teachers were also flipping through pages of a document. It summarized the terms of a possible agreement between the teachers and the school district—a pay raise, a freeze on health-care premiums and hiring priority for laid-off teachers.

The latest proposal is roughly 180 pages long and the exact language is still being hammered out by negotiators. But Robeson’s union delegate Jeremy Peters said a lot of people are disappointed because there’s little commitment to reduce class sizes, increase the number of social workers and limit school closings.

“We didn’t get anything for our kids. We didn’t get the wraparound services. We didn’t get more resources and that’s what, I felt like, gave us the moral credibility throughout this whole struggle,” said Peters.

The Board of Education is not required to negotiate over those issues. A state law passed last year limits collective bargaining in Chicago Public Schools primarily to compensation. Peters says that’s frustrating because it makes teachers look greedy.

Music teacher LaDonna Myers said she would rather be teaching, but she doesn’t trust the board. She wants to know exactly what the agreement says before she goes back. “What person in their right mind signs a contract you have not read? That’s just common sense,” said Myers.

Myers said the delay in getting back to class shouldn’t be blamed on the teachers. “We told you in May how we felt, clearly and unequivocally. If you didn’t get in in November when you first started sitting at the table. In May, you should’ve known you had a problem.... What happened to all the months in the summertime? What happened from May up till the end of summer?”

Union delegates are scheduled to vote again on Tuesday over whether or not to end the strike. Meanwhile, the school district is seeking legal action to force teachers back into the classroom immediately.

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