Stacy Davis Gates headshotWhen our new leadership team came into office in July, we kicked off our administration with the moniker “all gas, no breaks.” And we meant it.

Since then we’ve pushed hard — as educators in our classrooms and our school communities, as trade unionists fighting for our contractual rights, and as Chicagoans who want a better, more just city that works for all of us, not just a privileged few. That hard push continues to pay off and build on the gains we’ve made in the last decade, achieving some of the greatest advancements for our members outside of formal contract bargaining in the history of the CTU.

Those achievements include improving the family leave benefits CPS workers receive, ensuring we get the same benefits the mayor provides to other city workers. Starting in January, the standard Maternity and Paternity leaves of two weeks paid leave will be expanded six fold to 12 weeks — representing one of the most significant and extensive expansion of rights outside of contract negotiations in recent memory.

We also currently have record high staffing levels that are closer to compliance with national standards, thanks to stronger contract language for social workers, nurses, class-size, case management and more. Put bluntly, we are holding the line and then some — by insisting on enforcing strong wins in our 2019 contract, including real improvements in educator/student ratios that we’ve demanded and organized around for years.

In fact, ISBE data show that for the last 10 years, CPS’ student-teacher ratio has fallen steadily at the elementary level, with average class sizes decreasing since 2019. At the same time, the ratio of district students to social workers has fallen by half over the last decade to 450:1 this year. This represents real improvement in the conditions our members and students face in their schools every day.

We also have more than doubled the average number of grievances resolved from the last two to three years and developed a new expedited process for payroll and easy-to-resolve grievances.

We continue to protect our immigrant students and families and support our students with disabilities. And, by working in coalition with our union siblings and United Working Families, we continue to build our power in the political arena. All of the candidates we endorsed in the November election won, and the historic Workers’ Rights Amendment also passed, enshrining the right to collective bargaining in the state’s constitution — despite a relentless assault on the measure by reactionaries like the Illinois Policy Institute, Dan Proft and right-wing billionaire Dick Uhlein.

Our union is able to achieve real improvements in our classrooms, schools and communities because we fight for what we need and what is right — not what is easy or politically expedient. We win because our work is grounded in equity and justice, values that the families who we serve share and respect.

And we win because we work in partnership with stakeholders in every corner of this city. We are part of a broad, progressive movement fighting for the schools our students deserve and the city we all deserve. But we cannot achieve the equity and justice our communities have been denied until we make transformative change at city hall.

Our union brother Brandon Johnson will take our movement to the mayor’s office and rank-and-file leaders Mueze Bawany and Lori Torres will take it to the city council. They will lift up the voices of working families, educators, students and others who have been ignored for far too long in our city. They will fight to make Chicago work for all of us, not just the wealthy few — the real estate developers, bankers and corporate elite that control the levers of government under the current mayor.

We know our futures depend on the outcomes of the organizing campaigns we wage today — built on our rank-and-file commitment to tackling the opportunities and challenges we confront. Join the movement to elect Brandon, Mueze and Lori. Volunteer and donate to their campaigns or to the CTU PAC.

Thank you to each of you and all of you for stepping up to plan, organize and lead. Together we’re unstoppable, because our unity is our superpower and our solidarity our greatest strength.

May you have a peaceful, joyous holiday season and winter break.

In solidarity and with much love,

Stacy Davis Gates
CTU President

 

Stacy Davis Gates

President, Chicago Teachers Union