Possible teacher strikes in Chicago are one step closer to happening as the negotiations between the city’s teachers unions and the Chicago Public Schools officials are not getting any closer to a resolution. The talks have been going on for several months, but the proposals by both sides are still too far apart to make compromise a likely outcome. Now both the union and the CPS have taken the first step in a process that must be completed before the union can call for a strike. They have submitted offers from both sides to a fact-finding panel which will review both proposals and offer its recommendations by July 15th. Meanwhile, the negotiations will continue.
State legislation passed last year forces a number of steps that make it more difficult for teachers to strike. After the panel issues its recommendations, both parties have 15 days to accept them. If they’re rejected, the panel can publish the recommendations. After that, the union still can’t strike for another 30 days.
Right now, neither side has moved from their initial offers, officials said.
Based on new rules, an agreement by 75% of the union membership will be required before a strike action is approved instead of a simple majority as was the case before last year. Although the union leaders have said that informal polling has showed that the strike has the necessary support, third-party observers expressed skepticism.
The panel that will now take up the facts of the case will include CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, CPS deputy general counsel Joseph Moriarty and arbitrator Edwin Benn. Ultimately, the arbitrator will make the recommendations in a final report.
“While we are prepared to enter this phase of discussions, we were hopeful that the union would spend more time working in collaboration with us to reach an agreement on behalf of our students, teachers and taxpayers,” said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.
The biggest area of contention seems to be salary increases. The union is asking for a 30% bump over the next two years, while the city is offering a 2% increase in the coming year to offset the lengthened school day and then a switch to a merit-based pay system in 2013-14.
Currently the teachers are operating under a contract due to expire June 30th. If the union is successful in calling a strike, it will be their first strike action since 1987.