The Chicago Teachers Union was required to have 75% support from their members to strike — they claim to have smashed this requirement with 90% authorization. CTU President Karen Lewis said the scale of support showed the degree to which the relationship between teachers and the Chicago Board of Education has been soured.
"They're an indictment of the state of the relationship between the management of CPS and its largest labor force members, the Chicago Teachers Union," Lewis said.
CTU has 26,502 members. 482 voted against the strike, 2,240 failed to cast a ballot and a massive 23,780 members approved the strike.
Lewis claims that CTU would still prefer not to strike, and there is still some way to go in the lengthy process before they can strike. The two sides are currently in mandated arbitration, the recommendations form which are due to be released on July 16. However the two sides are so far apart that it seems difficult to see arbitration successfully resulting in a jointly acceptable compromise. The CTU are demanding a 30% pay rise across the board, and the city is offering a 2% pay rise.
The strike vote was to head off legal challenges ahead of a strike next fall should the talks break down as widely expected.
CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard expressed disappointment that the union was pre-emptively authorizing a strike to increase its negotiation leverage.
"CTU leadership pushed their members to authorize a strike before giving them the opportunity to consider the independent fact finder's compromise report due in July," Brizard said. "That's a shame. The CTU leadership left the teachers with a choice between a strike and nothing — that's a false choice. As a former teacher, I am disappointed that union leadership would rush their members to vote for a strike before having the complete information on the table."
Last week the state labor board rejected CPS' request to issue emergency rules controlling the timing and process of the strike vote. It also denied the request to preserve documents connected to the vote. The day before the strike vote Brizard sent an email to all union members urging them to hold off on voting until after the arbitration panel had submitted its recommendations.
In response CTU has filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board alleging that Brizard was illegally tampering with the union's strike authorization vote.
The last time Chicago teacher went on strike was 1987 with a 19 day walk out at the beginning of the school year.