We’ve landed a truly great win on parental/family leave, for which we should be getting more details within the next couple weeks.
Our union is 80% female, and fighting for equity for women has been at the heart of our work since our inception. Today, pay equity is not an issue in Chicago’s public schools because we fought for it, just as we’ve been fighting for years for better working and learning conditions for our members and our students. The struggle to expand parental/family leave rights has been a sustained demand at the bargaining table — and the opportunity to broaden those rights outside of contract negotiations has emerged in the course of the current mayor’s race. This didn’t just happen. We made it happen, through our advocacy, our commitment and our willingness to fight for what our members deserve.
In September, we learned that the City of Chicago had just expanded maternity leave benefits for city employees — while leaving in place lesser benefits for staff in CPS. We immediately demanded access to expanded parental benefits for CPS workers, as well. The CTU also got to work exposing the ways that the Mayor was saddling public schools with hundreds of millions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, a message that CTU organizer and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson began amplifying as he announced his run for Mayor in late October.
The pressure is working. Mayor Lightfoot, who is desperately seeking political leverage for her floundering reelection campaign, has relented — and CPS will recognize key parental benefits previously denied to CTU members.
Starting in January, the standard Maternity and Paternity leaves of 2 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. Members will be able to use the new paid leave for the first year of a new baby, whether through birth, adoption or foster care. This new policy applies to both birth parents and non-birth parents, with some restrictions for those accessing FMLA.
In addition, through our advocacy we’ve convinced the Board to add miscarriage as a category of loss that qualifies for our contractual bereavement benefits. The new policy is pending approval in January by the board of education.
That said, as our beloved president Karen Lewis used to say, “CPS can screw up a one car funeral” — so we will continue to monitor and share information as more details become available.
These are historic wins — and we haven’t even started negotiating our next agreement with CPS. Well done CTU! When we fight, we win!
Stacy Davis Gates, CTU President
Jackson Potter, Vice President
Christel Williams Hayes, Recording Secretary
Maria Moreno, Financial Secretary