Chicago Public Schools, Union, Clash Ahead of Friday Strike

(Photo: Brad Perkins, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Brad Perkins, Creative Commons)

Already picketing at schools before classes begin, the Chicago Teachers Union is planning an entire day of rallies and teach-ins in the city that will comprise a one-day strike on Friday that promises to close schools.

The union encouraged its members to be a part of the walkout by publishing a bulletin that listed some longstanding complaints aimed at the district, along with a warning that the union knows that CPS CEO Forrest Claypool intends to close schools, force furloughs, and initiate layoffs in the next academic year. However, a CPS spokesperson stated that these allegations are not true.

Juan Perez, Jr., writing for the Chicago Tribune, reports that CTU has rallies planned to take place at Chicago State University, the Thompson Center, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and City Hall.

The American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who is an ally of CTU President Karen Lewis, will possibly attend a teach-in on the Northeastern Illinois University campus on Friday morning, according to a provisional schedule of events released by CTU.

The walkout is focused on disagreements between the district and CTU, but it is also intended to motivate Gov. Bruce Rauner and state legislators to approve laws that would provide more funding to public schools and social service agencies. The union has announced that it will be supported by roughly 50 community groups and unions on Friday.

CPS is expected to release information concerning contingency sites for young people who may be shut out of classrooms by the walkout. CTU has asked members to give parents fliers on Wednesday and Thursday.

“No member may cross a picket line and individuals on each Contract Action Team must be assigned to record any scab activity,” union materials distributed to members said.

But Mark Konkol of DNAinfo writes that not all CPS teachers are excited about the one-day strike. One high school teacher from the South Side said she had learned that if she shows up at school on the proposed “Day of Action” she would be dismissed from being a member of the union.

Still, the Day of Action was approved by 80% of CTU delegates last week. Another South Side elementary school teacher said her loyalty to her students trumps her loyalty to the CTU.

Union leaders counter that once delegates have approved a measure, the members must agree to the decision to show the union’s solidarity. A teacher who is kicked out of the union still has to pay union dues because he or she will continue to benefit from contract negotiations. Other perquisites would be lost, however, such as union-paid liability insurance.

“It sends the wrong message to the kids. We’re there to teach and set a good example. This sets a horrible example. I think we are being used as pawns to get legislation passed,” said a high school teacher, who asked not to be identified.

Union members say the district has a $480 million budget shortfall because they have refused to investigate additional tax revenue to fund schools.

Samantha Winslow, writing for TruthOut, notes that the April 1st date for the walkout was chosen because it is the day teachers were scheduled to see a reduction in their paychecks due to the elimination of the 7% “pension pickup” by the district, which it has been paying since the 1980s.

Claypool said he would welcome any teachers who come to school on Friday since many kids get their only meals at school, and there will be children who need to be supervised.

The walkout will make this the second Friday in a row that CPS schools will be closed, reports Emily Florez of WMAQ-TV Chicago.

“We are asking for people to take a stand around a social issue which is whether we are going to have public schools in the city,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “This is about teachers and other educators taking a stand with urgency to say fund our schools, fund our public institutions. It’s a matter of necessity.”