Questions & Answers
on a CTU / SEIU Strike

Together, our union fights to win.

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Contents (answers below)

This Strike FAQ in PDF format

What are my options for managing my federal student loan debt while we are on strike?

Can I get relief on my federal student loan payments while we are on strike?

We don’t want your student loan bills to add to your stress while you are on strike. If you have federal student loans, there is a vital lifeline for workers that could help you manage your student debt while on strike: income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. Income-driven repayment plans are available in some form to all federal student loan borrowers and may drop your monthly student debt bill immediately – and continue to do so after a strike is won.

What are income-driven repayment plans?

Income-driven repayment plans are repayment plans that base your monthly payment on your adjusted gross income and family size rather than how much you owe. Your payments through these plans can be as low as $0 a month, particularly when your income has gone down, or when you reasonably believe that it will go down, because you are on strike or for any other reason. These plans are free to enroll in.

How do income-driven repayment plans compare to other options like deferment or forbearance?

Income-driven repayment plans are usually better for most borrowers than programs like deferment or forbearance – which can leave you with a lot more debt and should typically be avoided if possible.

With income-driven repayment plans if you’re unemployed or between jobs, you’ll be asked to pay as little as $0 a month in any income-driven repayment plan, and that will keep you current on your loans and moving toward eventual loan discharge.

What happens to REACH timeframes when we are out on strike?

Basically these time frames are frozen. So, for example, if you had a pre-conference two days before the strike, your evaluator would not have to re-do it just because the strike time had elapsed. This would mean that you should be prepared for the possibility of an observation when you return. We will try to work with the Board to ensure that these don’t take place on the first day we return but, this is yet to be worked out. By the same token, if you were scheduled to have a post-observation conference, the timeframe doesn’t include the days we are out on strike.

What about IEP timeframes? Can I get ‘in trouble’ for not completing IEPs that I’m responsible from in a timely manner while we are out on strike?

IEPs are legal documents with mandated timeframes. Just as vacation does not count, strike days will not count and you cannot be found held responsible for not completing IEPs during the time we are out on strike.

CPS sent me a work stoppage deployment message. Is this legal?

It’s not legal if you have a CTU-represented job title. If you are a part of any of the job titles represented by CTU—including but not limited those listed below—and you received a WORK STOPPAGE email from the Board of Education deploying you to a school or command center in the event of a strike, then this letter was sent to you improperly and should be ignored. In fact, sending the letter was a violation of Illinois and federal labor laws and could result in an Unfair Labor Practice charge being filed against the Board.

  • Instructional Support Leaders
  • College & Career Coaches
  • CTE College and Career Coordinators
  • Youth Intervention Specialists
  • Attendance and Truancy Specialists
  • Attendance Coordinators
  • Family Engagement Coordinators
  • Network College & Career Specialists
  • Case Managers
  • Comprehensive Service Coordinators
  • Resident Social Workers

To be clear, you are a part of unionized staff and will be out on strike in the event we are not able to reach an agreement by September 16, 2019.

Why are we striking?

Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and we’ve authorized a legal strike to improve both. We want respectful raises for all CPS staff, including our paraprofessionals, many of whom earn wages so low their children are eligible for free/reduced lunch. That raise should be real, not undercut by escalating health care premiums and co-pays. And elementary teachers desperately need adequate preparation time, not more principal-directed meetings and PD’s that even principals oppose.

We’re fighting for the schools our students deserve. Without social workers, nurses and other vital frontline staff and the real restorative justice programs that our students need, the school to prison pipeline will continue to grow. Without resources for quality schools and affordable neighborhoods, Chicago’s Black and Latinx families will continue to be forced out, driving the endless cycle of school budget cuts, layoffs and under-resourcing in our schools.

I’m confused. Just what can we legally bargain over?

Chicago’s district school educators are victims of ‘separate and unequal’ treatment compared to the rest of Illinois, where educators can bargain and strike over school conditions that include class sizes and staffing needs. In 1995, Chicago mayor Richard Daley won passage in Springfield of the infamous Section 4.5 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA), which restricted mandatory subjects which the Board and the Union must negotiate to only wages, hours, benefits and contract length. Section 4.5 also created “permissive” subjects we can bargain over if both sides agree: class size, class staffing and assignment, class schedules, academic calendar, and length of the workday and school year. Unlike every other teacher in the state, 4.5 forbids us from striking over these matters.

Could there be a settlement before October 17?

Yes, but settlement is in the Mayor and CPS’ hands. We continue to bargain in good faith, hoping to reach an agreement that will meet the needs of our members and the students and communities we serve. We’ve called upon the Mayor to put her campaign promises in writing. We all know that the verbal promises made during campaign season are only enforceable if they’re enshrined in a legally binding agreement — our contract. The mayor and her hand-picked members of the Board of Education have the power to do this right now and, in doing so, avert a strike.

Is CPS broke? Can they afford our demands?

CPS is not broke. The State funding formulas changed in 2017 with the passage of an equity-based school funding formula that today is sending over a billion dollars a year in new funding into CPS coffers. The mayor could also redirect public dollars from her TIF slush fund — including $1.3 billion dollars in TIF money Lightfoot approved – in a contract, in writing — for Lincoln Yards’ wealthy developers to create an upscale new neighborhood in “blighted” Lincoln Park, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the nation.

What about educators who are members of groups that have recently become a part of the CTU? Who are they and are they on strike with us? What about Resident Social Workers and Teachers?

YES! We are very excited to have new members of our bargaining unit (people who are now represented by the Chicago Teachers Union). These include such groups as (Instructional Support Leaders, College & Career Coaches, College and Career Coordinators, Youth Intervention Specialists, Attendance and Truancy Specialists, Attendance Coordinators, Family Engagement Coordinators, Network College & Career Specialists, Case Managers, Comprehensive Service Coordinators, and Resident Social Workers).

You are out on strike with the rest of us. Any attempt to pressure you to cross the picket line (scab) or to re-deploy to a contingency site is illegal and a violation of Illinois and federal labor laws which could result in an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Board. If you are assigned to a specific school, please report there at 6:30 a. m. for picket duty. If you are a city-wide employee or network-based, please report to CPS Headquarters for picketing.

Resident Social Workers are one of the newest groups in our bargaining unit. They have signed up as members and will participate in the strike as full members. If they’re assigned to one school, they should report there for picket duty. Others will receive an update on where they should report.

Resident Teachers are not yet an official part of our bargaining unit. We are in the process of filing a petition with the Labor Board to have them considered as out on a strike for union recognition, and we believe they should be aggregated to our bargaining unit as similar groups have been, since they share a ‘community of interest’ with our members. Illinois labor law, however, has not yet formally established the legality of such a strike. We think it is very unlikely that the Board will take action against Resident Teachers for respect our picket lines and we will work to defend them should any action be taken.

Can I go on strike if I am not currently in a position title represented by the CTU?

Maybe. The following job titles are not officially in the CTU’S bargaining unit yet, but have been in the process of accretion for the last couple of months. If you are in the following job title you will be allowed to participate in the strike should one occur. CPS has assured us that you will not be penalized for such participation.

  • Curriculum and Instructional Coach
  • Acting Head Teacher
  • Program Schedule Clerk
  • High School Support Teacher
  • High School Programmer
  • Lead Teacher
  • Lifeguard
  • Social Worker Assistant
  • Literacy Intervention Teacher
  • Special Education Support Clerk
  • Bilingual Teacher
  • Teacher Assistant Bilingual II
  • CTE Academy Coordinator
  • Teacher Assistant Bilingual Spanish I
  • Curriculum and Instruct Coach
  • Teacher Assistant Bilingual Spanish II
  • Day-To-Day Sub School Clerk
  • Teacher-Citywide
  • Day-to-Day Teacher Assistant
  • Teacher-Speech Pathologist
  • Displaced FTB Cadre-100 Days
  • Displaced Full Time Basis Cadre
  • Head Teacher
  • International Baccalaureate Teacher
  • Lead Teacher
  • Literacy Coach
  • Magnet Program Specialist
  • Program Option Teacher
  • Provisional Certificate Substitute Teacher
  • Provisional Cadre
  • Regular Teacher
  • School Counseling Office Assistant
  • School Counselor
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Teacher Assistant Bilingual I
  • Gear-Up Coach

Who’s on the bargaining team? Why should we trust them?

Members of the bargaining team are elected members of our executive board, selected by you, the members, to play a leadership role in the CTU. They include teachers, school counselors, social workers, school clerks, teaching assistants, and more. Members with particular areas of expertise in matters like special education, early childhood education, health care, bilingual education and so forth are brought in for specific sessions. The team is led by our elected officers, with support and consultation from our chief of staff and key union leadership from the contract enforcement and legal departments. Our Chief Counsel Robert Bloch, a highly experienced labor attorney, is also at the table.

We will receive a two-week check on October 25 and, depending on the length of a strike, a check for October 14, 15 and 16 plus additional days if we have returned to work before the end of pay period 23.

What about our health insurance?

Health insurance coverage is based on being in pay status on the first day of the month, so we are covered for the month of October. If the Mayor chooses to cut health insurance effective November 1st, members (and their covered dependents) will automatically be eligible for COBRA which is administered for CPS by Payflex. CPS is required by law to notify members in writing of their write to elect COBRA. Employees have up to 60 days to decide whether to elect COBRA continuation health coverage. When the new contract is settled and the strike ends, then medical bills should be covered retroactively by your insurance company once your health plan is reinstated.

If you, or a covered dependent, needs healthcare for an urgent matter, you cannot be turned away by a hospital. If they find that your insurance is not in effect, they will bill you and, when we have returned to work and are back on the Board insurance, you will re-submit your bill or, if needed, file an appeal of the rejection. Members who are currently receiving vital ongoing care (e.g. 9 months pregnant, receiving dialysis or chemotherapy) should apply for COBRA as soon as they become eligible. If you have a specific situation of concern, email CTU’s health care coordinator Annette Rizzo. If we remain out as November 1 approaches, we will have more details available.

You can read more information on COBRA from the US Department of Labor.

Can we use benefit days during the strike?

The short answer is ‘no.’ Some examples are people on STD (Short Term Disability) or people with scheduled health care events like a planned surgery. If you have scheduled sick or personal business days for the time we are likely to be out on strike, you should go into Aspen when it is certain that we are actually going to strike and cancel those days. For people who are already out on a paid leave, your leave will be paused and you will not be paid during the work stoppage, but your leave will resume when we return to work.

Are any loans available during a strike?

CTU has worked with our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, and with the United Credit Union to make modest strike loans available. All striking CTU members are eligible and the AFT will reimburse members for interest charged on these loans. If you think you might want to take advantage of this program, additional information is available here on our Strike FAQ page.

United Credit Union is accepting applications from CTU members now and the application forms are available from their website or in-person at any UCU location. The first date that funds can be received is November 8, the date of our first partial paycheck. CTU has provided a guide to help with some of the form questions.

UCU Loan Application

Loan Application Guide

Will we receive retroactive pay when the new contract goes into effect?

Our current contract expired on June 30, 2019. The new contract will be retroactive to July 1, 2019. As in the past, one of the final negotiating points will involve retroactive pay which should date back to July 1st. As with everything CPS, this may take some time (and possibly some errors) before everyone gets what they are entitled to. It should, however, be simpler than in 2012 when CPS did not grant steps and lanes at the start of the school year because their bargaining position was to eliminate these.

Do we have a contract in effect now?

Yes. Until a new agreement has been signed and ratified by the membership, we are subject to the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement — the Blue Book.

I’m a substitute teacher; where do I report?

If you are a day-to-day substitute, you can come to CPS headquarters at 42 W. Madison or you can report to a school near your home. If there is a school you work at frequently, feel free to go there and support your colleagues.

If you are a cadre substitute assigned to a school, please report to the school you are working at. Reassigned teachers should report to the school they are currently working at.

Are TFA (Teach for America) CTU members? Can they strike?

Yes, they are our members and they will be on strike. TFA has at times sent out misleading and confusing info to TFA fellows about the strike. Our leadership and legal team have met with TFA leadership and expressed our concerns about these communications.

We have repeatedly confirmed that the bottom line is TFA fellows are teachers and CTU bargaining unit members – and will be on strike with us. If you hear concerns, reassure them that TFA’ers were on the line in 2012, 2016, and numerous recent charter school strikes and that they encountered no problems or issues about participation. Contact your field rep if you need further assistance with this.

What about teachers and staff who may be DACA recipients?

We have consulted with our lawyers nationally and at CTU, and DACA recipients are covered as employees under Illinois labor law, so there should be no complications whatsoever that should interfere with their rights. DACA teachers should be more careful than others not to engage in any possibly technically “illegal” activity, which would include civil disobedience.

What about teachers who are here as guest workers such as those on J-1 visas?

Workers who are here on J-1 visas are protected by Illinois labor law. If their sponsoring organization notifies them to the contrary, they should reach out to the CTU and we can provide assistance with this matter. J-1 workers have struck in other cities, including in the recent Denver teachers strike, and did not face adverse action.

More Info about J-1 Visa Holders

Note for J-1 Visa Holders: J-1 workers do have a right to strike under Illinois law. Please inform us immediately if you hear any statements from your sponsor organization or anyone else to the contrary. If necessary, AFT and the CTU will consider legal action to defend. This issue came up recently in a Denver teachers’ strike and the Board had to change its position and acknowledge that J-1 visa holders do have rights to strike. J-1 visa holders have also been active participants in a number of recent strikes in other fields of work.

We do have two recommendations: Before to participating in the strike, we will provide visa-holders with a ‘Letter of Protection’ to show anyone who questions them and it will include lawyer’s contact information and a statement of your rights. We also recommend that you send a letter or petition to your sponsor organization, stating clearly that you do not intend to quit your job, that you will return to your duties following the strike and that you consider your participation in this as a part of your cultural exchange opportunities. Please email Debby Pope if you have any further questions. We will be happy to help you with the letter and/or statement.

What about after-school activities such as sports, clubs and coaching? What about that special field trip planned for a day that we may be on strike?

Mayor Lightfoot has already announced that all sports and extra-curricular activities will be cancelled/postponed in the event of a strike. Our members will not be participating in any such activities. We will not be leading or taking part in any field trips during the strike.

My principal directed us to create ‘activity packs’ for students to do during 5 potential strike days. Do I have to do this? We were given one half hour for this.

After consulting with one of our attorneys, we say that this is not a reasonable request, adequate time was not provided, and that it is not past practice in other strikes. The Mayor has cancelled classes for tomorrow. This is not the same as asking you for lesson plans in case you, individually, are absent. If the principal attempts to impose disciplinary action because you were not able to comply given the limited time, we certainly will defend you and your colleagues. Please contact your field representative if you encounter any problem.

What is a scab?

A scab is someone who chooses to cross the picket line to work during our strike. The action of scabs undermines our strength and solidarity. Scabbing — crossing or working behind a picket line – is a very serious violation of our constitution, which lays out clear mechanisms to bring charges against any member at your school who crosses our picket lines. Scabs are tried by our Executive Board, and if found guilty are expelled from the CTU.

There are many reasonable reasons that a co-worker might be nervous about striking – fear of retaliation, financial difficulties, or worries about whether we can win. Acknowledging that you understand and can even relate to their concerns can often help as you talk to them about why the strike and our unity is so important. But, although we understand their fear, they are never an excuse to cross the picket line or be a scab.

What about the educator who doesn’t show up for picket duty?

A bargaining unit member who doesn’t report for picket duty is harming themselves and their colleagues. Every effort should be made to reach out to them through your delegate, CAT team members, or a friend of theirs to persuade them to come and walk the line. We need everyone to stand firm and united. How much we win at the bargaining table and how long it takes depend on our solidarity and strength in the streets.

Who do I talk to if there’s an issue on my picket line?

If there are issues that occur on your picket line, please speak first to your picket captain. CTU also has a Strike Hotline at 312-329-6229 if you need advice or support.

I don’t live anywhere near my school and I would prefer to picket by my house. Can I just go there for picket duty?

No. We really need members to report to their schools. You are just one person, but if everyone who wanted to did this, our picket lines would suffer and this would weaken our strike. It’s important to connect with parents, students and community members from your school community and for the educators you work with every day to show each other the support and unity that we all need.

Will we make up the days from the strike?

Legally, CPS only needs to make up the days if the school year falls below the State-mandated minimum number of days (185 total, 176 student attendance). CPS has recently threatened to violate these mandates. We highly doubt that CPS management would violate state regulation in this way. In the past, we have successfully negotiated make-up days so that our members lose no wages. That will be our goal again as we complete bargaining.

My school has two buildings. My school is spread out and has several key entrances. How do we handle this?

Divide your team, rotate places, cover the places that need to be covered. The strike is only as strong as our weakest link. If you have issues at a particular picket line, ask your Delegate or Picket Captain to contact your school’s regional Strike Coordinator.

What about basics like food and bathrooms?

Encourage your colleagues to bring snacks and beverages to share. As in 2012, parents and neighbors may also bring food. Try to establish a place (friendly neighbor, local business) where you can use the washroom. You cannot enter the school or school grounds. Scout out parking locations in advance; you will not be using CPS lots.

On the Line

Striking is hard and exhausting – and inspiring and exhilarating! Sing, chant, create dance lines, chat with your fellow workers and celebrate your power at the school site. Join your fellow CTU members and thousands of others for our big public activities in the afternoons. Show your ‘RED for Ed’ pride! Our unity is our greatest strength in a contract fight, and when we fight, we win.

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More from the Contract Campaign

Contract Campaign Central
Tentative Agreement Vote Resources
Meetings on the TA
Latest Bargaining Update
Answers About Strike Loans, etc.
Solidarity from Allies
Social Media / CTU Speaks! Podcast

General CTU Announcement

Administrative Transfer Window

Teachers will be able to transfer schools for Fall 2024 without principal permission from Sunday, March 24, 2024 to Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

Read more