Chicago Teachers Union Says May Strike Unlikely

(Photo: Ted Cox, DNAinfo)

(Photo: Ted Cox, DNAinfo)

In spite of recent rumors, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey stated that a teacher strike this month was unlikely. He added that in September, after teachers receive their first paycheck, confrontation was not being ruled out.

Even though Illinois law would allow a teacher walk-out as early as the middle of May, the union made the decision to postpone the strike since it would mean salary and health insurance losses when teachers were heading into the summer break, reports Susan Carlson for WMAQ-TV.

Teachers have also been reluctant to use the negotiation tactic at the end of the school year when parents would have to procure last-minute child care and deal with other disruptions.

Avoiding the strike means that CTU and Chicago Public Schools would have the summer months to come to an agreement on a new contract. It would also give lawmakers time to negotiate additional school funding propositions.

CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner said:

“A final agreement is within reach, and it would prevent a strike that no one wants and that would hurt our students and employees. Our objective is to prevent a strike by reaching a final contract agreement and taking a united approach to securing our fair share of funding from Springfield.”

WGN-TV’s Tonya Francisco and Dana Rebik write that CPS has alternative plans that would allow seniors to graduate if a strike does take place. The district said it would continue with these ideas until CTU confirms that there will not be a May strike. The CTU House of Delegates will decide whether or not there will be a strike at their Wednesday meeting.

The Chicago Teachers Union rejected an independent fact-finder’s recommendation of a four-year contract. But Sharkey noted that unless CPS revokes a long-time 7% pension benefit, which it has threatened to do, the teachers will probably not be striking in May, according to CBS Chicago.

CTU is in a 30-day “cooling off period” from negotiating with the district.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the union for averting the strike.

“What I would say is, in the remaining weeks to the school year, our teachers will continue to focus on the education of our children and to the leadership, I would say join us in convincing Springfield to properly fund education in the state of Illinois,” Emanuel said.

Labor professor Bob Bruno explains that if teachers wait and strike in September, their health insurance will have resumed, and they can recoup their lost wages. CPS added that it would have to cancel final exams if teachers strike in May.

As recently as mid-April, CTU President Karen Lewis stated that there was a 100% chance for a walkout in May.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool used his Sunday morning to continue his campaign for more school funding.

At Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side of Chicago, Claypool told the congregation that everything in CPS schools, from books to buildings, are in need of restoration. He said Gov. Rauner’s cuts to the budget were a fatal blow to CPS. When the district opens its doors in September, it is slated to have a $1 billion deficit, reports WLS-TV.