Report from the table
Today was the first day that we all worked remotely together, and though it may not have felt like it, it’s a significant change. We’re all in this together now. And whatever comes next, when we move, we move together. Last night’s announcements by the Mayor and the Board — and the new proposal from CPS that they dropped on us right before their press conference — represent definite wins.
And then this afternoon, there was a sIgnificant legal development with major implications for our situation, even though there’s little to report about our own hearing at the IELRB so far. Today, a Cook County judge ruled that Cicero teachers, who are also conducting a remote-work only job action (inspired by the CTU!), are not striking by refusing to report for in-person work. The judge rejected the school district’s effort to declare the Cicero teachers’ job action illegal and order them back to work, writing:
“I can accept the premise that in-person teaching is preferable to remote learning, just as I can accept the notion that in-person court proceedings are preferable to remote proceedings. But I also recognize that there are countervailing public health considerations that prompted us to resort to remote proceedings in the first instance. We are all anxious to return to ‘normal,’ but maintaining the status quo relative to remote learning while teachers are vaccinated hardly seems an exigent circumstance requiring injunctive relief.”
When CPS and the mayor held their press conference last night, they did the right thing by restoring full remote instruction district-wide with their guidance to parents to keep Pre-K and cluster students home for the rest of the week.
Yet at the same time, they ordered all members in Wave 0 (clerks and tech coordinators), Wave 1 (Pre-K and cluster educators and clinicians) and Wave 2 (K-8 teachers) to report to buildings.
But while they’re putting out contradictory messages and sowing confusion among parents and CTU members, this is the time for us to remain steady at the helm. Our steadfastness is working.
So far, we’re not hearing of widespread retaliation, and in fact a few Pre-K and cluster members previously locked out for exercising their rights to a safe workplace have been let back in.
During the press conference last night, the Mayor walked back the rhetoric labeling our work action “an illegal strike.” And without kids in buildings, no CTU member should feel pressured to return.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to press at the bargaining table to resolve the biggest outstanding issues: remote accommodations for CTU members with household members who could die if they contract COVID-19 and phased-in in-person teaching so that those who want to return now or those who get vaccinated can get back to the classroom as soon as possible.
But make no mistake: our collective action is the lever that is producing progress at the table.
We’re also seeing a growing chorus of voices that understand that CTU educators are ready and willing to work in safe conditions — and that CPS is creating the chaos and would be the party choosing a strike by deciding to retaliate against members. That’s why they’ve pulled back from widespread retaliation this week.
Our message that we’re teaching remotely to stand up for the safe schools that Chicago’s students deserve resonates with the city.
But we should all expect that they will continue to threaten people and perhaps even deny payment to members for working remotely. We know that many members received emails from principals, which CPS dictated to them, saying that telework is unauthorized. But, as we’ve now been saying for months, if we are allowed to teach or submit any work products, this constitutes a clear case of wage threat. (Have questions about what to do in your particular situation? Go to ctulocal1.org/faq).
So why are they doing it? Because they would rather dole out back pay later if it affords them the opportunity right now to threaten people in hopes of scaring members into breaking rank.
So to recap: so far this week, we are making strides, and they are backing down. When and if they decide to escalate by retaliating, then we stand ready to escalate as well. And, whatever comes next, we all move together.
In safety and solidarity,
Our sentiments exactly
Protecting members who chose safety
Protecting members who have chosen safety by refusing in-person work is a top priority for the Union. We have made a formal demand that the Board drop disciplinary proceedings against those they have locked out, reinstall their access, and make them whole if they’ve lost pay. And if you are refusing to enter the building, have not been locked out, but have been denied some portion of your pay, that is a clear case of wage theft and will not stand.
Support for locked out colleagues
Right now, hundreds of our colleagues are still locked out of their classrooms, torn away from the students they care about and deprived of their livelihoods because they chose safety. The Union set up a GoFundMe in the fall to help support these courageous members. Educators and supporters from across the country are donating to this fund in solidarity with the trail-blazing work being done by people like us here in Chicago! Make a donation today and share the link with friends and colleagues.
Act now: Don’t Lock Out or Leave Behind Remote Learners!
Our parent and community allies have started a petition to CPS and the mayor demanding protections for educators and remote learners, who are at risk if CPS makes good on the threat to lock out educators this week. Sign and share the petition.
From the field
Our parents are with us
Parents from across the city spoke out today calling on Mayor Lightfoot to scrap her dangerous reopening plan. Like us, parents don’t trust CPS to keep their children or their teachers safe from COVID. Read more.
Our principals don’t trust CPS either
The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association also says CPS is not ready to reopen buildings. It’s calling for a gradual, phase in of reopening. Read more.
You are not alone
The creativity, energy and commitment of our members continues to amaze us. Watch this beautiful video created by a group of CPS choir directors. Watch the video.
SEIU HCII stands with us
SEIU HCII President Greg Kelly issued a call to Mayor Lightfoot and CPS leadership to work with CTU on a safe reopening agreement. “While we understand that addressing the pandemic has been a challenge for all levels of government, it’s becoming clear that reopening plans have not sufficiently addressed the vulnerability and needs of workers and low-income communities—and especially black and brown workers and black and brown communities,” President Kelly writes. Read the full letter.
This is what our fight is all about
CBS-2 ran a moving tribute to COVID victims this week, including a beautiful profile of beloved teacher Olga Quiroga, who died from COVID in the fall. Watch her daughter’s loving testimonial at the 25.14 minute mark. Watch the video.
In the news
- Parents urge mayor, CPS to delay reopening plan Sun-Times
- Chicago teachers deadlocked with school district over reopening plans Washington Post
- President Biden, parents weigh in on CPS’ return to in-person learning after CTU votes to stay remoteome charter schools, teachers agree on reopening plans; CTU wonders why CPS cannot do the same Sun-Times