The decision by the mayor’s team at CPS to go mask optional starting Monday, March 14, is just one more example of their blatant disregard of our right to collectively bargain, not to mention the humanity of educators who make the schools function each and every day.
Whatever your opinion about masks, the mayor’s decision to side with a downstate attorney running for public office and break our agreement is an outrage.
The mayor’s team at CPS says that going mask optional shouldn’t be a problem. After all, they say, vaccination rates of CPS students are approaching the national vaccination rate for children. But this ignores massive disparities among CPS schools. Sure, a handful of schools have more than 80 percent of students vaccinated, but nearly 200 schools have fewer than 25 percent of eligible students vaccinated. You can find your school’s vaccination rate at ctulocal1.org/safety.
And then there are immunocompromised students and educators. And children under 5 who aren’t even eligible for vaccination.
What is CTU doing about CPS’ violation of our agreement?
We have already filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against CPS for violating our MOA, and the hearing has been set for March 16. We have a very strong case, and if the Labor Board finds in our favor, the State Attorney General will go to court to seek an injunction against CPS.
Meanwhile, we are also pursuing a lawsuit and consulting with disability rights groups and other allies. CTU Attorney Latoyia Kimbrough will be coordinating the legal work. If your personal health situation is threatened by the removal of masks and you might be willing to be a plaintiff, please contact Ms. Kimbrough and let her know.
We’ve also told CPS that we should bargain now about our demands in the face of this unilateral decision. Some of those demands are:
- A transparent metric that would be used to determine when universal masking would be required again.
- Training and guidance to ensure those who continue to wear masks are not stigmatized and power dynamics are not abused.
- Classroom specific mask requirements to protect immunocompromised individuals.
- Expand the Virtual Academy to allow additional vulnerable staff and students to be remote.
- Make extra paid work available to teachers, clinicians, and PSRPs to sign up additional students for vaccination events.
What can be done at the school level?
- Continue to document and report inadequate COVID-related safety conditions to the District Safety Committee at ctulocal1.org/report.
- If staff in your school community feel strongly about wearing masks, then take a vote and TOGETHER decide to mask for safety. Inform the Local School Council about your decision.
- Publicize your decision to mask! Take a school solidarity pic with your masks on and share on social media with #MaskingForAFriend, tag @ctulocal1.
- Flyer parents before and/or after school. Print flyer (both English and Spanish available) at ctulocal1.org/graphics or pick up flyers at CTU HQ, 1901 W. Carroll Ave.
- Print out a poster about why you’re still masking and tape it on your door. Find posters at www.ctulocal1.org/graphics.
- Organize a paid phone bank to do outreach to parents to sign up students to test and to attend vaccination events.