The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body has approved a one-day walkout scheduled for April 1 that will effectively shut down all public schools in the city.
Union leaders pushed for the one-day strike as part of an effort to force Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and state legislators to create a new funding plan for the city’s schools.
“This house is ready and united,” CTU President Karen Lewis said after the early evening vote by the union’s House of Delegates. “People are very, very upset and want to do something serious.”
District CEO Forrest Claypool said the school system will provide additional information pertaining to a contingency plan for those families who are unable to make other arrangements for their children on April 1st.
At the same time, the district said the strike will be considered illegal because it does not follow the state-mandated process required to take place before teachers are able to walk off the job.
CTU leaders have responded to this claim by saying the district withheld pay raises that had been given out based on education and experience, adding that because these raises were part of the contract that expired on June 30 the union has the legal authority to strike. Although the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has denied a challenge to the district’s decision by the union, the case has yet to be settled.
As a result of the walkout, over 300,000 students will miss a day of school for the second Friday in a row. In an effort to save money, CPS has designated this Friday as one of three furlough days for teachers. That move was one of the deciding factors in the union’s call to make April 1 a “Day of Action.”
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said that the question of whether or not the walkout is legal will most likely be decided in court, writes Juan Perez Jr for The Chicago Tribune.
Lewis said that some union members were skeptical of the walkout, to which she looked to reassure their concerns pertaining to not showing up for work.
“What are they going to do, arrest us all? Put us all in jail? There’s not 27,000 spaces in the Cook County Jail right now,” Lewis told members Monday. “The whole key is, we all go out together, we go back in together. It is united, it is union, it is as one. That is what’s really important.”
Despite threats over the last few weeks of a walkout, Sharkey said it would only occur if it was agreed to by an “overwhelming majority” of members of the House of Delegates. After receiving an overwhelming majority vote, the union is asking members to protest outside of their schools at 6:30 am, after which they will head downtown for another protest outside CPS headquarters, reports Sarah Schulte for ABC7.
In all, 486 voted for the one-day strike, while 124 delegates voted against it. Lewis said those who voted against it did so in hopes of holding a full strike.
Lewis added that the group wants Governor Rauner to create an acceptable budget.