On Wednesday, December 9, teachers who are members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will take a vote on whether they will go on strike.
The CTU's contract with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) expired during the summer, and now it has been over 150 days that teachers have worked with no contract. CTU is pushing for smaller class sizes, the end of all tests that are not mandated by state law, and support from lawmakers for a progressive income tax.
Allison Matyus of the Hyde Park Herald reports that many key organizations such as Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and Teachers for Social Justice joined to conceptualize the contract proposals for CTU.
The CTU needs for its membership to come up with a 75% "yes" vote between Dec. 9-11 for a strike to be authorized. If the protest passes, it could still be Spring before the 27,000 members of the union walk out. Chicago's teachers are facing a 12% cut in salaries and 5,000 layoffs due to a state budget crisis.
The first step would be an extended "fact-finding" process that allows a panel made up of union representatives and CPS delegates to make final offers on the issues being contested. The union can strike when the propositions have been negotiated and after a month has passed.
The Pantagraph reports that Stephanie Gadlin, a union spokeswoman, says it will be at least March before teachers begin their walk-out. The last time Chicago teachers went on strike was 2012.
The CTU is encouraging its members to vote "yes" on Wednesday through Friday during school hours when the vote will take place. If a teacher is unable to vote due to maternity, illness or other circumstances, he or she will be allowed to vote in some way, according to the CTU.
The union and its members have made it clear that they want a fair contract with no pay cuts for teachers and improved funding for neighborhood schools. The organization supports an elected school board and has been dissatisfied with the mayoral appointed board in place at this time. The group is also against the budget cuts for schools this year.
It recently became evident that a strike could be in the works. In November, teachers were told to begin putting aside money to prepare for a long strike. A mock vote taken at that time showed that members were ready to unite. A week and a half ago, a Downtown rally with thousands of attendees was hosted by CTU, reports Kelly Bauer for DNAinfo.
Last Thursday, CTU got behind a call for a civilian board to oversee the police department. And on Black Friday, a Downtown march to honor Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was killed by a police officer who shot him 16 times, took place and CTU members joined in.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said in response to McDonald's shooting:
"There are too many questions, but all of them illustrate why the CTU supports a democratically elected civilian police accountability council. We have no confidence in the mayor's hand-picked blue ribbon commission."
The vote is three days long because the union told its members that three-quarters of members must vote "yes" to approve a strike, according to state law. Because of that, CTU officials said the vote will run until 99.9% of the membership votes. The strike authorization vote will take place at the start and end of the school day.
There will be independent observers of the process in the form of several members of the clergy, reports the Chicago Tribune.