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CTU members and staff distribute PPE to clerks at tech coordinators in a dawn action

As safety concerns mount, CTU joins national Day of Action

As the City moved to a wider reopening of businesses in September, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s hand-picked school board was refusing to bargain with the Union over serious safety concerns for school clerks, technology coordinators and other frontline workers who are being forced back to work in school buildings.

So, those staff members took matters into their own hands Sept. 30 by distributing PPE to clerks and other school employees in the early morning hours outside Collins High School in North Lawndale, a community that has been ravaged by COVID-19.

National Day of Action

The CTU event coincided with a National Day of Action staged by a growing coalition of teacher unions, community organizations, parent groups and national networks across the country demanding safe schools. Like CTU, throughout the day, education justice advocates from 15 cities in 10 states conducted car caravans, press events, and virtual rallies to demand safe schools, free from COVID-19, excessive police presence, and rich with resources to keep students, their families and educators safe.

“As states across the nation push for school districts, sporting events, bars, and restaurants to reopen, our education community continues to suffer from COVID-19 and the inequities that it has laid bare,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis-Gates said. “Black, brown and vulnerable families continue to be harmed by COVID-19, under-resourced public schools, and the lack of access to broadband internet and tools necessary for remote and hybrid learning.”

The day of action took on a sense of urgency as CPS continued to refuse to work collaboratively with CTU to remedy its substandard safety policies and reported 258 COVID-19 infections among staff and vendors through the first week of school. The district’s stance is in defiance of guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education that says school districts should bargain with their educators on the terms of working and learning during the pandemic.

Our demands

The CTU wants the Mayor to put resources and protocols in place to protect educators and students before rushing to restart in-person education. But our Union’s demands—like those of the National Demand Safe Schools coalition—extend beyond our school buildings to the communities in which we teach and live.

Those demands include:

  • No in-person schooling until the scientific and public-health data supports it.
  • Police-free schools.
  • All schools must be supported to function as community schools with adequate numbers of counselors and nurses.
  • Safe conditions including lower class sizes, PPE, cleaning, testing, and other key protocols.
  • Equitable access to online learning.
  • Support for our communities and families, including a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, direct cash assistance to those unable to work, and other critical social needs.
  • Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs.
  • Massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing the billionaires and Wall Street.

CPS forced school clerks, technology coordinators and others back into schools starting on Aug. 26, even though ISBE said work that can be done remotely SHOULD be done remotely. While clerks and others worked at home effectively for months, they filed hundreds of safety concerns with the Union following their return to in-person work. Complaints ranged from CPS’ failure to provide sufficient masks and non-enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing to dirty workplaces that are not being disinfected or lack adequate—or any—ventilation.