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Comprehensive demands call for paid time off for workers across state; free testing for students, families in need; meals for quarantined low-income students; better planning for deep cleanings at schools and public places; policies to tackle digital divide for students mandated to distance learning during school closures.

The Chicago Teachers Union today joined a coalition of unions, community groups and state and local elected officials to announce a platform—including proposed legislation—that will protect the health and well-being of workers and families in the wake of any closures of schools and workplaces. Those common good demands are designed not just to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, but to better protect families and workers going forward.

Participating coalition partners included the CTU, SEIU Local 73, SEIU HCII, National Nurses United, the Illinois Nurses Association, Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, UIC United Faculty Local 6456, United Working Families, Arise Chicago, the Grassroots Education Movement, and city, county and state elected officials.

The coalition has laid out a platform of critical needs to enhance public safety across the city and the state, particularly in communities currently directly impacted by coronavirus.

  • The provision to all Illinois workers—in CPS schools, public agencies and private businesses—of 15 additional days of paid time off, to align with the quarantine period for COVID-19.
  • Testing protocols that place no economic burden on individuals and families in need.
  • The creation of a CPS/City of Chicago meal delivery strategy to ensure that low-income students who rely on schools for free/reduced cost breakfast and lunch do not go hungry in isolation in the wake of school closures.
  • A shared CPS/City of Chicago plan to ensure that students have access to broadband and computers to participate in remote learning should their school be closed.
  • Suspension of CPS’ School Quality Rating Policy, which is heavily biased towards attendance numbers in assessing school “performance.”
  • Clear guidance from local government—including City of Chicago and CPS officials—for school workers on both the protocols for “enhanced” and “deep” cleaning. Concerns from rank-and-file janitorial staff are mounting about protocols and a growing lack of access to cleaning supplies. Adequate supplies and cleaning in schools and other public buildings and spaces are also needed.
  • A moratorium on evictions and mortgage payments for families in need.

The CTU and others are calling for legislation modeled on a proposed law in Washington State, which provides $100 million in relief for impacted communities and unemployment benefits for workers forced into quarantine by the coronavirus. Illinois legislation should expand paid time off for all workers, including part-time school workers who are parents; secure funding to provide low-income schoolchildren with meals; and create safe spaces for tens of thousands of homeless CPS students at risk of literally no place to go should their schools close. Advocates are also calling for the quick passage of SB471, the Illinois Healthy Workplace Act, which provides workers with a minimum of five days of paid sick leave for all Illinois workers.

In CPS, low-wage paraprofessionals—many of whom send their children to public schools—and hourly parent workers are at a particular risk of economic hardship in the event of school closures.

“The City, the State and CPS need to fully commit to paying workers in the event of responses like school closures, and to providing the meals and health care support that students and working class families need,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “This is one of the richest states in the nation, in the richest nation in the world, and Chicago’s working families and our public school students need and deserve this support.”

CPS is reportedly moving to implement legislation that would vastly expand ‘distance learning’, at a time when thousands of students on Chicago’s South and West Sides confront a dire digital divide locking them out of accessing digital education tools.

“This outbreak puts the health and well-being of our students, their families, our dedicated educators and our neighborhoods at extreme risk,” Davis Gates said. “We’re proposing a platform of common good demands backed by public policy and state and city legislation that provides students and families with access to desperately needed health care support and basic nutrition at the same time that the livelihoods of workers, including part-time parent workers, are protected.”

The common good platform also calls upon government agencies to model other strategies being deployed globally. Italy, for example, just suspended mortgage payments for impacted communities to ease the economic blow of the global crisis on households.

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 www.ctulocal1.org.