After losing arbitration over remote learning, CPS is now illegally threatening educators for exercising rights.

Including one whose husband recently died of COVID-19.

Make it make sense.

To recap, an independent arbitrator last week ruled in favor of the Union, saying that Chicago Public Schools violated the health and safety clause of our contract by requiring school clerks, school clerk assistants and technology coordinators to work in person during the COVID-19 pandemic—even when their work could be completed remotely.

Last night, CPS sent a communication to these members threatening to withhold their pay if they do not report to unsafe—per the arbitrator’s ruling—school buildings today.

The district is straight up lying to our people in hopes of intimidating them out of exercising their rights. This is the same divide and conquer tactic it tried when forcing members back into buildings in late August. Says CTU Recording Secretary and PSRP for life, Christel Williams Hayes:

I was a clerk. My mother was a clerk. My daughter is a clerk. For three generations my family has proudly served Chicago Public Schools. This is a slap in the face. The fact that the mayor is choosing to fight Black and Brown women instead of the virus makes no sense to me.

The bottom line is this: CPS and Mayor Lori Lightfoot do not get to change the rules of the game if they receive a decision they don’t like. That’s not how this works.

The mayor and her handpicked CPS leaders own this debacle, and they have to make it right and keep you, your students and all communities safe. CPS is only further delaying a safe return to our schools when it refuses to listen to the educators, parents and communities who know these schools best, and who face the greatest risks.

Our union is abiding by the arbitrator’s order and CPS is not. It is illegal to refuse to pay people for work, which is what the district is threatening. It’s illegal to retaliate against an employee who is invoking their rights under a collective bargaining agreement or arbitration order.

The arbitrator’s decision is a binding decision. It is illegal for CPS to refuse to comply with a binding arbitration decision. The mayor and CPS disagreeing with and disregarding an arbitrator’s decision does not mean it is not legally binding upon them. It is especially outrageous they would attempt to disregard a decision that would ensure safety in the midst of an unprecedented global health pandemic. We have seen deaths from COVID, and COVID outbreaks in multiple school buildings.

Lindblom Math and Science was just closed due to a COVID outbreak. Greely Elementary was closed twice—once from Sept. 16-21, then again for another week because of positive cases. The school is 70 percent low income—63 percent Latinx and 20 percent Black.

The mayor and her team at CPS are jeopardizing the health and wellness of our most vulnerable student populations, who are already dealing with high COVID rates and deaths in their communities.

To clerks, clerk assistants and technology coordinators: Please know that our lawyers are on top of this. It is illegal for CPS to refuse to comply with the arbitrator’s decision, and it is illegal for CPS to take any adverse action (such as discipline, pay docking, requiring use of benefit days, etc.) against an employee for exercising their rights under the arbitration decision to perform work remotely that can feasibly be performed remotely.

The Union will vigorously defend your legal rights if CPS takes any such action against you, and we will pursue all legal recourse to hold CPS responsible for any efforts to refuse to comply with the arbitrator’s order. As always, our ability to enforce and defend our rights depends on our collective effort to all do so standing together. There is a webinar scheduled for your functional groups tomorrow, for which you should have already received an email with login information. Also:

  1. If you are directed to perform job duties in person that you were able to complete remotely last spring, inform your principal that you will again be doing that work remotely until it is safe to perform those duties in person. Use this template to email your principal a letter and inform them. Make sure to fill in the list of job duties you will complete remotely.
  2. If CPS or your principal threaten any adverse action against you (such as discipline, docking pay, requiring you to use benefit days, etc.) for exercising your rights and protecting your health and safety, please contact your CTU field representative immediately.
  3. Job duties that can only be performed in person should continue to be performed in person.
  4. If some duties can only feasibly be performed in person, but you are unable to perform any in-person duties at all due to personal, health or family reasons, then you should apply for an accommodation to work fully remotely.

CPS lost, so it is attempting to gaslight our members to think they do not have rights an independent arbitrator has affirmed that they do have. The district doesn’t think most members understand the process, so it thinks it can get away with lying to you about it.

This will not be tolerated. When we fight, we win.