CTU Vice President Jackson Potter speaks at a press conference in City Hall surrounded by CTU members and elected officials.

CTU Vice President Jackson Potter speaks at a news conference in City Hall as we delivered petitions demanding the mayor reverse coarse on expanded parental leave for CPS workers.

With just seven weeks until the mayoral election, Mayor Lightfoot interfered with CPS operations and derailed a process that was scheduled to expand our paid parental leave rights by a factor of six, from two weeks to 12, at the end of January. 

In response, CTU President Stacy Davis Gate sent a letter to the mayor urging her to reverse course and allow her CPS team to continue to work collaboratively with us — as they had been since mid-November — to deploy a paid family leave policy for CPS employees that mirrors the 12 weeks of paid parental leave city employees now receive. 

In her letter, Davis Gates said the mayor’s reversal of a November commitment CPS made to expand parental leave for all CPS employees is a terrible move that sets back recent efforts to achieve a more collaborative working relationship with the district. 

“We have been working to move past the acrimony of the past with your CPS leadership team,” Davis Gates said. “Yet this recent development sets those efforts back tremendously. This pattern of you and your team retracting good policy agreements fails to create quality partnership and forces a series of challenges from our membership that detracts from our shared goal of making our district the best in the world.”

“As a mother, woman and educator, this particular issue is close to my heart and the hearts of thousands of women that work for our school district,” she said. “It’s difficult to understand why — after multiple CPS/CTU meetings that produced a robust parental leave policy and an accompanying FAQ — you and your team have chosen to walk back our opportunity to give women who work in the Chicago Public Schools a policy that supports them and their families — a policy that was slated for a Board of Education vote in January.”

Lightfoot’s reversal of CPS’ November commitment to provide our rank and file with the same expanded parental leave benefits afforded to city workers is one more disappointing but unsurprising intervention by the mayor to derail good policy and humane treatment of school workers across the city. It is one more in a long string of affronts against CTU members that adds urgency to send CTU’s own Brandon Johnson to the fifth floor of City Hall in February’s election. 

Members of CTU’s health care committee have expressed anger and disappointment, as have rank-and-file members across the district. On January 17, educator parents at Prosser spoke out about how Lightfoot’s reversal directly undermined them. The next morning before the City Council meeting, educators and officers were joined by supportive aldermen and candidates to decry the mayor’s move — and deliver thousands of petitions calling for her to reverse course. 

Only the Mayor could have approved this sudden policy change — which she’s trying to claim now must be “bargained,” even though every city employee from any or no union, is eligible for expanded leave. But, to verify the interference, CTU has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain all communication between Lightfoot’s office and CPS on this matter.

This about-face is part of a long-standing pattern of behavior by Lightfoot to attack union educators, nearly 80 percent of whom are women — and all of whom deserve access to the same paid family leave benefits that city workers now receive. The majority of the developed world already offers at least 12 weeks of parental leave as a recognition of this fundamental human right. 

This is part of the mayor’s playbook to anyone who challenges her: rejection, retaliation and denial of equal rights. For the last four years, CTU has had to fight tooth and nail for its rights and needs, lobbying legislators and even striking for basic provisions in our labor agreements — a pattern that we can expect to continue should Lightfoot win a second term.

We’re still collecting signatures, so sign and share the petition as we move this campaign forward. We have every intension of landing for our members what public workers on the city side now have. We’re prepared to fight for it if we must — and when we fight, we win.