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A strong contract is only as good as its enforcement, and that process is what ensures our safety and security long after a strike.

A strong contract is only as good as its enforcement, and that process is what ensures our safety and security long after a strike. Here are some recent victories from the CTU Grievance Department, plus some information on advanced step placement for outside experience.

Personal business days

Prior to 2012, there were contractual restrictions on when and how PB days could be used. Those restrictions were eliminated in 2012. The Union’s position has been that this meant that employees could use their PB days freely without restrictions. Partially in response to their self-created crisis of substitute coverage, the Board attempted to re-impose restrictions through the backdoor of principal/school handbooks. This resulted in numerous cases that progressed from grievances to arbitrations, and resulted in a number of wins for CTU members. The arbitration decisions have established the following precedents:

  • PB days cannot be denied based on the nature of your personal business (e.g., your cousin’s wedding vs. traffic court) but only on the needs of your specific school to maintain safe and adequate staffing.
  • Principals can set up a justifiable maximum number of teachers that can use PB days each day, but they cannot make that number so low that it creates difficulty for teachers who wish to utilize all three of their benefit days. The maximum must allow for possible last-minute emergency use in situations that cannot be anticipated.
  • Bargaining unit members must be notified of any PB day use restrictions in writing, and restrictions cannot be arbitrarily or disparately enforced.

Religious holidays

Two recent cases have supported teachers who were denied religious holiday benefit pay. The arbitrators ruled that the Board cannot maintain an unpublished “secret” list of religious holidays that qualify for such pay.
In the settlement of a separate case, CPS agreed that clinicians will no longer have the costs of a substitute deducted when they use a religious holiday if no substitute is provided in their absence.

Dirty schools

The Union has won a case at Simeon High School where the building was dirty and contractually mandated cleaning was not taking place on a regular basis. While the Board has a legal right to select a contractor or sub-contractor for cleaning, the Board has an obligation under our contract to ensure that required daily cleaning is done. The cleanliness has improved at Simeon, and, per the arbitrator’s order, there will soon be daily charts posted in each room at the school for the custodian to sign confirming that the work has been done.
If your school has an ongoing cleanliness issues, contact you field rep about filing a grievance.

Even dirtier schools

The Union had two recent grievance wins regarding clean and safe schools—both for Swift Elementary School. One was for severe water damage in the school that caused mold and peeling paint. We contended that there was active and persistent water leakage in the school’s book and laundry rooms that created a toxic and harmful work environment.

Article 14-1 of our contract with the Board of Ed states that bargaining unit employees shall work under safe and healthful working conditions. The Board is required to ensure that employees are secure and not unreasonably exposed to risks to their personal health on the job. Over the course of a year, we were able to secure increased resources and staffing from Aramark. To address the water damage, CPS ordered and completed repairs to the roof, which included testing for lead paint.

The other grievance contended that live mice and droppings were found in areas around the school, including five classrooms, the security desk and the main office. The infestation was due to unclean and unhealthy conditions, and included video evidence of a mouse running around the classroom as well as several pictures of the crumbling walls and rodent feces.

An additional custodial position was created, and all custodial workers were retrained on cleaning processes. Aramark also contracted with a pest service that visited Swift weekly to eliminate pest activity. The Swift principal confirmed that all classrooms were cleaned and all droppings removed prior to the 2019-2020 school year

The Swift delegate and other members did a great job taking pictures and organizing. The members also signed a petition demanding action. This school also has a very active Local School Council, and no doubt the Board knew we could escalate this issue easily.


The Union won language in our new contract that will return Kronos timekeeping duties to school clerks by the start of the 2020-2021 school year. That said, teachers have been doing this work for the past few years, resulting in increased non-teaching time and additional burdensome paperwork that violates our previous contract. One school has filed a grievance asking for compensation for this work. We encourage other schools who wish to preserve their right to possible back pay to reach out to their field representative to file a grievance.