CTU President “Overwhelmingly Certain” That Teachers Will Strike | WBEZ
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CTU President “Overwhelmingly Certain” That Teachers Will Strike

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey announced Tuesday night that he and the bargaining team are recommending that teachers strike on Thursday.

The union’s 800 elected delegates will be asked to approve the strike at a meeting Wednesday evening. Sharkey said he’s “overwhelmingly certain” the delegates will follow the recommendation to strike.

“Tonight, I have to tell the people of Chicago and the members of the Chicago Teachers Union that we have not achieved enough in negotiations to say that we are done fighting,” he said. “We need more.”

Sharkey said negotiations will continue Wednesday, and more could emerge from the school district, but “teachers don’t like it when people turn in late homework.”

The teachers are expected to be joined on the picket lines with members of SEIU Local 73, which represents park district workers and other school staff. Altogether some 35,000 workers are expected to strike.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson did not respond to the union’s strike recommendation. But the mayor plans to address the media Wednesday morning.

Earlier on Tuesday Lightfoot said she remained confident a deal could be reached, but “we are running out of time. Lots of core issues still have to be addressed.” She also mentioned the size of CTU’s bargaining team — over 40 people — and described bargaining with them as a “slow process.”

Sharkey and other bargaining team members Tuesday night said there hasn’t been enough progress on big issues. Among them, pay for low-wage teacher assistants and office clerks; a demand for lower class size and caps on them; and their demand for more staff, such as social workers and counselors.

Over the past few days, there seemed to be movement on the issues of class sizes and staffing. The union on Saturday said it would accept phasing in lower classes and increased staffing, with the neediest schools getting help first.

And Monday night, Lightfoot and Jackson released a statement expressing a willingness to put some language on these subjects in the contract. They had been resistant to including any enforceable class sizes or staff promises.

However, the union’s bargaining team members said the city's proposals didn’t go enough. The union is insisting that the neediest schools get a teachers aide or some relief when they have class sizes of more than 24 students, but the union said the school district is only willing to provide remedies at 32 or more students.

The union also said that they were being told by the school district that they could either have a social worker in every school or a librarian — an offer they said is unacceptable.

Counselor Kristy Brooks said she is happy the school district has agreed to ensure counselors can focus on counseling, and not be required to take on a host of tasks, such as recess duty and substituting in classes. However, she said she is disappointed with the school district’s refusal to offer any caseload caps.

“When we have one counselor for 1,500 kids, students don’t have access,” she said. “I am resolute that CPS students deserve access to a school counselor.”

The union also said it is not satisfied with the salary offer for the lowest wage workers it represents, who are teacher aides and office clerks called PSRPs.

Teachers Assistant Willie Cousins said he has worked at a school in Englewood for five years and is only earning $30,000. He said it was hard to live on that salary in Chicago, where rents are skyrocketing.

“So Lori (Lightfoot) I ask you, bring a real offer to the table,” he said.

Sharkey also said the length of contract is another outstanding issue.

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