Chicago Teachers Union Threatens Strike Action

Chicago Teachers Union has said that they have enough internal support for strike action to commence of their talks with Chicago Public Schools break down. A new state law, aimed at making sure industrial action decisions by union leaderships were actually backed by a significant majority of their membership, now requires approval from 75% of a union’s members before striking is lawful. The law was signed by Governor Pat Quinn last year.

CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said members at several schools were polled.

“The preliminary results indicate that if a strike vote were held today, teachers in those schools would vote unanimously for a walkout,” Gadlin said.

The announcement is a little surprising as the talks are still in early stages and far from approaching common ground. The main point of contention appears to be teacher salaries. CPS is offering a 2% raise next year, moving eventually to a system of merit pay that would reward teachers for taking the least desirable jobs. Many will take the CTU statement as being merely a heavy-handed negotiating tactic, but Chicago Public Schools are unlikely to be impressed by the preemptive strike threat:

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said it’s still too early in negotiations to talk about a strike.

“Any talk of holding a strike or mock strike votes at this early stage of contract negotiations is a disservice to our children, parents and families and only diverts our energies away from focusing on our students and boosting their achievement in the classroom,” Carroll said.

CTU and CPS have been embroiled in a number of public spats recently over subjects as diverse as discrimination, tenure and charter schools, and have been periodically threatening strike action for some months. With this acrimonious relationship it may be difficult to close the gap between 2% offered and 30% demanded in a mutually satisfactory and affordable way.

If mediation fails then either side can request a panel review the final offers, a process that will take more than two and a half months to complete.