Bargaining Update: CPS contract fight

These past few weeks have been busy. On July 18 and 19, the CTU and Mayor Lightfoot’s team presented arguments to the fact-finding panel—required under Section 4.5 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA)—as we try to settle our contract with the Board of Education. And last Thursday, July 25, Mayor Lightfoot’s negotiating team FINALLY provided us with some counter proposals.

We made it clear to the fact finder that our proposals intend to transform school communities across the city. We’re demanding class size reductions, improvements to special education services for our students, more nurses, social workers, counselors and other critical frontline staff in schools, and job stability and acceptable pay increases—especially for our clerks and teacher assistants.

What remains clear is that the promises that candidate Lightfoot made on the campaign trail have yet to be proposed by her negotiating team—the same negotiating team appointed by former mayor Rahm Emanuel. Her team’s brief was anchored in an insufficient proposal on pay and benefits to the fact finder—and failed to present on any of the mayor’s campaign pledges, arguing they don’t have the resources to fund our school communities. This is shocking, given that CPS is now receiving a billion dollars a year in increased revenue from the state since the new evidence-based funding formula was signed into law in 2017.

In Thursday’s negotiations, our team at last received counter-proposals. We believe that’s because of increased pressure from rank and files leaders and activists over the last month. All summer, our members have been knocking on doors, phone banking, staging informational flyering and picketing Board of Education meetings—and that work is having an impact.

Our advocacy has pushed the mayor’s team to provide counter-proposals on issues like sanctuary schools and clinician subcontracting—though they’re still inadequate. But they still insist on eroding teacher preps, and on Thursday made official their inadequate pay and health benefits offer by passing it across the table.

The bottom line is that our pressure is working, and we must be ready to exercise the ultimate form of pressure—a strike—if necessary. We have more opportunities for member and public engagement before school starts, and our summer organizing interns have been doing impressive work. We hope you’ll join us at these to ensure we’re ready to ratchet up our contract fight the first day we return to school. Watch your email, check our website calendar for ways to get involved, contact if you want to volunteer to phone bank or flyer in the coming weeks, and please join us at the following events:

  • July 31: meeting on contract demands for wards 1, 26, 33 and 36; aldermen Carlos Rosa and Rossana Rodriguez have committed to attend.
  • July 31: meeting on contract demands with 25th ward alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez.
  • August 6: meeting on our contract demands, 47th Ward.
  • August 10: CTU contingent at Bud Billiken parade. Join us at this important community event!
  • August 28: CPS board of education meeting: rally, press conference, board presentation.

I look forward to seeing you at our summer actions. We’re a fighting union, grounded in our unity and our commitment to win the schools our students and educators deserve —and when we fight, we win.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
CTU President

Flyering at the Red Line 95th Street stop on Thursday, July 25th. Since the summer began, our members have been phone-banking, flyering and knocking on doors to talk to fellow members, parents and the public about our demands for fair wages and benefits, smaller class sizes, adequate staffing, and real equity and educational justice for our students and their families. To get involved, check out our calendar of public events, watch your email upcoming events, or contact

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at