Chicago Teachers Union delegates will vote Wednesday evening on whether to support a proposed one-day strike scheduled for April 1.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says that the union leadership wants to use the moment to take a stand against Gov. Bruce Rauner holding up the state budget and forcing so many social services and colleges to make cuts. He says the CTU wants to unite organizations and college students who are affected by the budget crisis.
“Right now people perceive the budget crisis as a Springfield sideshow,” he said. “We want to make people aware that there is an acute crisis going on.”
Sharkey, however, says he does not know whether the delegates will stand behind the one-day strike.
“The CTU membership is famously independent and do not kowtow to anyone,” he said. “We are confident that they are receptive to our argument and that they are grappling with how they can address the budget crisis in a beneficial way.”
But some teachers say they think the reasons for the one-day strike are “convoluted.” Some will go to work, either way.
“In my opinion, what is happening April 1 is conflating a bunch of different things that have no central purpose to it in spite of what the union is trying to tell me and its members,” Healy teacher Jim Macchione said. “I feel like there is no central purpose to what is going on.”
He stresses that he supports the union and, if contract negotiations reach the point where a strike becomes necessary, he will be on the picket line.
Chicago Public Schools has called the strike illegal. State law sets a process for striking and that process has yet to be played out, according to CPS officials.
On Monday, CPS officials said they are exploring all their options as they wait to figure out what CTU ends up deciding to do.
In late January, it looked like the union and CPS were close to a deal. But the deal was rejected when union leadership brought it for vote with a bigger group of members, called the Big Bargaining Team.
Upset, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool threatened to stop paying a pension benefit. The action would have resulted in a 7 percent pay cut for teachers.
In response, the union threatened to strike on April 1.
Then, just two weeks ago, Claypool said he wasn’t going to take away the pension benefit.
Though the union declared victory, CTU President Karen Lewis insisted that April 1 would still be a “Day of Action.” At the time, She was not clear how that Day of Action would play out. At a press conference in early March, she said it be anything from a walkout to a massive rally downtown after school.
The statements caused a lot of confusion. Recently union officials clarified that they plan to hold a one-day strike.