This fall, CPS forced our members back to work without bargaining critical provisions to remote learning. Despite our expertise, they
did not listen to us or offer any real compromises. Teachers were directed back to long days in front of a computer, with no additional preparation time; clerks and technology coordinators were called back to buildings despite spotty safety plans and even in situations where the work could have been done from home.
In response, CTU members have organized—signing letters to protest unsafe conditions, speaking out at press events, filing grievances, holding meetings and testifying at arbitration and Labor Board proceedings.
In the last couple of weeks, in response to our public and legal pressure, CPS has begun to move on issues regarding Clerks and Technology Coordinators. CPS’ treatment of clerks, tech coordinators, clinicians and other workers who CPS is seeking to force back into buildings NOW impacts every CTU member as we work on preparing for a safe and responsible eventual return to our school buildings. We do not know if CPS is going to make a reasonable offer, but we need input from our membership about what compromises we might consider.
During the discussions with the Board on Technology Coordinators and Clerks, four main issues have emerged:
- Clean spaces, PPE: That our workplaces be cleaned frequently and we are supplied with appropriate protective equipment. We think we are close to agreement on this.
- Sneeze guards, partitions, ventilation: That our work spaces be fitted with sneeze guards/partitions, where appropriate, and that all workspaces have ventilation according to the Chicago Building Code, Illinois OSHA, and CDC guidance. The Board is currently disputing our demand about Illinois OSHA, saying that it is not necessary.
- Remote vs. in-person work: Limiting on-site work to a maximum of 2-3 days/week. We think Clerks and Technology Coordinators should be allowed to work remotely while CPS is operating under fully remote learning unless the Board can demonstrate need for work to be performed in person. So far they have only agreed to 1 day of remote per week. This is a key issue in dispute.
- Testing: We have demanded that CPS provide COVID-19 testing for all staff who are required to report to school buildings or other CPS facilities, who have had potential exposure to COVID-19, and/or who have symptoms of COVID-19.
If the BOARD makes no significant movement, then we have no choice but to keep fighting in court, despite the slow timeframe. However, IF the Board offers us a compromise, we have to be prepared to give them an answer.
We will be organizing meetings and discussions to take input on these outstanding issues. Delegates and school communities should be convening PPC and school meetings now that allow members to discuss these issues.
CPS Bereavement Policy Update
We live in a time of incredible hardship and loss for hundreds of thousands of American families, including both rank and file members and our students’ families who’ve lost loved ones to the ravages of the pandemic. That’s why we fought for and have just reached agreement in negotiations with CPS to extend the modifications to bereavement leave which were in effect last spring.
It continues to be a struggle to push CPS to show grace and kindness to our members, our students, and their families during the pandemic. Nothing can replace those we mourn, but it’s our hope that with this new agreement, our members can take the time to properly celebrate and recognize those who have fallen to COVID-19.
For those of you who have lost loved ones between March 17, 2020 and March 16, 2021 who fit the definition below, you can now use bereavement leave in no more than two separate installments until June 24, 2021.
This will enable many families who were forced to postpone services and memorials due to the pandemic to gather with their family and friends.
As expanded in the 2019-2024 Contract under Article 33-4, covered relatives are as follows: parent, spouse, spouse’s parent, domestic partner, domestic partner’s parent, child, brother, sister or grandparent.
The leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union extends our deepest condolences to those of you who have suffered losses of beloved family members. We hope this new agreement eases at least some of the heartache of their passing, and offers members the opportunity to take the time and space to celebrate the lives of those we loved and have lost.