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Tuesday, within an hour after bargaining concluded, the mayor’s CPS team released their Fall Reopening Guidance — after they’d deliberately failed to even inform us of this impending move at the table. Put bluntly, the mayor’s team seems congenitally incapable of bargaining in good faith.

Mayor’s unfair labor practices

We’ve responded by filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to challenge the mayor’s refusal to agree to our previous enforceable safety guidelines, even as the threat from this virus spikes again.

I’m appalled but not surprised that the mayor’s CPS team continues to insist on rolling back the layered mitigation protocols she agreed to last winter — guardrails that protected the one in four public school students who returned to classrooms last spring. This fall, instead of 25% of our students returning, the mayor’s team will put 100% of our students back in our classrooms with NO intact safety guardrails — no agreement on testing, contact tracing, vaccinations, health screeners, social distancing in classrooms or lunch and recreation, ventilation, or any of the layered mitigation we won last year.

Lightfoot’s team seeks to dodge safety agreement

We had another frustrating bargaining session Wednesday (click on the image to view our video update), but that’s to be expected because the mayor’s team doesn’t come to the table to negotiate. CPS comes to the table to gaslight and push the mayor’s public relations agenda. We’ve asked them to explain how rolling back mitigations that worked when only 25 percent of students were in the buildings will be acceptable when 100 percent of students return. All we’ve gotten is silence.

No matter how many pronouncements the mayor makes, we do not have a reopening agreement and our schools will not be safe until she agrees to the layered mitigation strategies she accepted in the winter and spring. Instead, today at bargaining the mayor’s CPS team presented a ‘comprehensive’ proposal that codifies their deficient plan on paper, and indicated that they could walk away from the table as they continue to resist actually landing safety parameters. In a pandemic.

Be clear: our demands are reasonable and grounded in safety, and our school communities know it. Over the last several weeks, our phone lines have been blowing up with calls from anxious members and frightened parents. They understand that the mayor wants to pretend this is a normal school year. And they understand, like we do, that it is anything but.

We did gain some clarity today about leaves and accommodations today, an issue of grave concern to our members. CPS confirmed that members who are forced into a work-related quarantine will not need to use their benefit time. It will be paid. However, if the quarantine was not work related you will need to use your benefit days. Contact your field rep with questions.

Fighting to save last year’s safety protections

We’ve developed this chart to lay out the Mayor’s appalling and dangerous rejection of last year’s safety protocols, so members and parents know exactly where Lori Lightfoot stands as she shuts down critical safety protections: Lightfoot CPS roll backs – Spring 2021 vs Fall 2021.

Delta is spreading like wildfire, children are much more susceptible to both transmitting and being sickened by this variant, and dozens of our Black and Brown neighborhoods continue to struggle to access lifesaving vaccines.

Yet this mayor continues to reject the protections for all that she agreed to last school year, even as the pandemic and its variants worsen. This mayor has $4 billion in federal COVID relief funds for the CIty and CPS that she continues to refuse to invest in safety and equity for our students, even as parents continue to plead for more comprehensive safety protocols.

Mayor Lightfoot’s indifference to safety and science makes our advocacy that much more critical. As we get our safety committees up and running in our school communities, it’s crucial that members speak up in our PPCs and safety committees, in our LSCs and PPLCs, and in our outreach to parents and families. Encourage parents with concerns to join groups like Raise Your Hand to demand a remote option for students and force the mayor to commit to providing the resources and staffing we need to make school safe this fall. And join your safety committees!

But we’ve been here before. We know that public pressure is what moves Mayor Lightfoot and the school board she controls. Continue to speak out. Keep signing and sharing our Invest in Schools petition. Document safety violations and send them to communications@CTUlocal1.org. Check out our updated bargaining chart for details on where we stand.

It’s also time to get your safety committees up and running. I cannot stress enough how important these rank-and-file committees are. Without a district-wide reopening agreement, we need to maximize safety on a school-by-school basis. Join one of our three safety committee trainings being held today, Sept. 2, and Sept. 8 to learn how you can use these committees to make our schools safer:

The bottom line is, we need a partner at the table. We need transparency, collaboration and cooperation and we’ve yet to see any of that from this mayor.

Our unity and our solidarity with our students, families and the grassroots groups that represent them is the most powerful safety tool we have this fall, because it sets the stage to force the mayor’s CPS team to do what’s right by our students. Our students and families have a right to recovery that the mayor can more than afford to support, and our unity and solidarity will get us there.

In safety and solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey, CTU President