Updated 10:15 pm
Chicago Teachers Union leaders on Saturday argued they have given Mayor Lori Lightfoot a path to make a contract deal with them and avert a Thursday strike.
They said they gave her bargaining team new proposals around class size and staffing increase — two of the biggest sticking points in contract talks — and that they had good, productive discussions during negotiations on Saturday. The two sides plan to resume bargaining on Monday.
“Time is short, though,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.”If there is going to be a settlement here, there is going to have to be decisive action on the part of political leadership in this city. The ball is in her court.”
In a statement released Saturday night, the mayor and Schools CEO Janice Jackson said, “Today, we were pleased to see more progress at the negotiating table than at any time up to this point.” They did not comment on the CTU’s new proposals, only mentioning the counterproposals the school district had released on Friday, which were dismissed by the teachers union.
“We remain committed to getting a deal done that reflects our fundamental respect for teachers — which is paramount in the counterproposal we put forward yesterday. We remain committed to doubling down on our shared efforts, coming back to the table, and getting to an agreement. That is what our teachers, students, and families deserve.”
This conciliatory tone was a major change from Friday. After that day’s negotiations, both the mayor and the union came out swinging. Lightfoot and Jackson issued a joint statement accusing the union of failing to bargain in good faith and determined to strike.
Sharkey said the tone inside the Saturday negotiations had improved since Friday, when the school district handed the union a “take it or leave it offer” on salaries and a few other issues. On Saturday, Sharkey said the school district’s bargaining team seemed to walk that back. He said both sides have made it clear they want to work toward a settlement.
Sharkey said the union isn’t moving off its demand that class sizes be lowered, that there is a way to enforce limits, and that there are written promises in the budget to hire more nurses, social workers and other staff.
But the new union proposals floated Saturday asks for these changes to be phased in and targeted at first to the neediest schools.
Lightfoot and the school district have been resistant to putting promises for more staff in the contract, insisting that flexibility is needed, and have been opposed to lowering class size, saying overcrowding isn’t a major problem and lowering class size is costly But Lightfoot and Jackson also said they want a deal without a strike.