COVID-19 is on the rise in Chicago, with thousands of lives lost in Illinois because of the pandemic, with Black and Latinx communities hit the hardest by illness and death. Yet on Monday, August 24, CPS sent an email to clinicians and other CPS workers indicating that they may be required to report to school buildings beginning Monday, August 31.
Hundreds of our clinicians met at a Friday afternoon webinar, where we updated rank and file members on the status of discussions with CPS, fielded questions, and mapped out our larger campaign to force CPS to treat workers with dignity and respect during this unprecedented public health crisis. If you missed that webinar, check it out here.
Public health guidance is clear: Any work that CAN be done remotely SHOULD be done remotely. The Chicago Teachers Union continues to lead with our values – including our conviction that students, members and their families deserve safety first and safety always. For clinicians, in-person working can be both hazardous and nonsensical. For example, a speech therapist cannot work IN PERSON with a student when they must both be masked yet that child must be able to see the clinician’s mouth move to benefit from that clinical support!
If your work can be completed from home, you should have that option – and there are steps you can take to help make that happen:
- CLINICIANS: Every clinician who believes in-person work may be dangerous to them or their family without negotiated protections should email this template letter TODAY to their principals. This letter informs them that you believe it is unsafe to report to the school full-time, in-person, regardless of the actual needs. It says that you ARE available to work remotely until those concerns are addressed by CPS.
- Delegates and school leaders, a reminder: If you have not yet, convene school-wide union meetings to discuss concerns about remote learning plans at your school, the CPS guidelines and to mobilize support for clerks, clinicians and other members being directed into unsafe working conditions.
Clerks are using a letter similar to the letter above, which we believe will protect you, but members
will face intimidation, with orders to report and threats that they will be docked pay if they do not report for in-person work. If you feel it’s unsafe for you to enter a CPS building, then act on your conscience, submit the letter and refuse to work in person until safety measures are in place. Your union will stand behind you.
Our clinicians, like all of our rank and file members, are willing to work to deliver the support our school communities desperately need right now. At the same time, each of us deserves to have basic safety measures in place if working in buildings is essential – and the right to work remotely if the work can be completed that way.
We’ve filed a grievance over the district’s unfair labor practices surrounding our clerks and their work, and an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the Labor Board. We will take similar steps to protect clinicians and other workers being hijacked into unsafe working conditions. In the meantime, delegates, please consider reaching out to clinicians to make sure they know they can count on your support if they use the option above, and tell your principal that they will be working from home until safety assurances are in place.
CPS must provide safe and healthful working conditions and address unsafe working conditions that exist in our buildings today before clinicians or any workers return to school buildings.