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Sisters and brothers:

Thanks for truly inspiring Delegate and School Leaders conferences on March 7 and 9. We had great attendance and discussions about how to build our contract campaign, strengthen our fight for better working conditions, and build our strength for our contract fight.

We need two things to fight and win a contract that makes significant progress on achieving the schools our students deserve. First, we need a clear vision of what we’re demanding—and why. Second, we need well-organized schools where members are fighting for improved conditions and talking to parents. We hope we won’t have to strike the new mayor, but we need to be ready, because a strike is our most powerful weapon.

As most folks know, we began formal bargaining with CPS for a new contract in January with an exchange of demands, and have held one full bargaining session with our 40-member big bargaining team, where discussions have been largely procedural. See MemberLink for our full demands. We’re also currently setting up subcommittees, including on SPED, CTE and sports, so watch for opportunities to get more involved in these critical groups, which will drive our responses at the table.

Delegates are working on organizing our CATs—our contract action teams—so reach out to your colleagues about getting involved with your CAT, the backbone of any successful contract fight.

One easy task that CATs can do right now is to organize to collect signatures from all CTU members on our petition against the city’s plan to spend millions of dollars on the corporate playground Lincoln Yards, instead of investing those dollars in our schools. Download a copy of the petition at this link. We’ll also be increasing communication this time around via members of the bargaining team, so watch for regular updates via eblast.

CPS has said at the table that they want to be partners in improving the quality of education in our schools—but their proposals show the opposite. On the upside, their proposals don’t reflect the draconian cuts of the past. CPS is in a much better financial position today than they were in either 2012 or 2015, and we have an opportunity to win big at the table. BUT their proposals:

  • Roll back key wins for better learning conditions—including in professional decision-making, lesson planning, grading, testing, REACH timelines, sustainable community schools, and by killing the open transfer period.
  • Increase principal control—including by making all preps principal-directed.
  • Disrespect PSRPs by proposing ZERO improvements in PSRP staffing or working conditions.
  • Fail to reflect changes that students, parents, and community want to see in our schools.

Our proposals, on the other hand, seek to:

  • Increase pay and benefits.
  • Increase staffing to adequate levels.
  • Reduce class sizes in crowded schools.
  • Improve working conditions.
  • Make just social demands in schools and for the communities in which our schools exist and our students live.

In addition, one of our most critical fights is on health care. Blue Cross/Blue Shield recently confirmed that our joint CPS-CTU Labor Management Cooperation Committee did, in fact, save CPS millions of dollars—validating our battle against recent increased premiums, particularly for PPO participants. We’re moving this case to arbitration.

Janice Jackson is a different CEO than Claypool, Brizard or other past bosses. Our new governor has vowed to increase funds to education, although it remains to be seen by how much. His fair tax proposal is decent, though it could have been even better. We also won’t have Rahm to punch for much longer, and we’re about to elect a new mayor. Our Executive Board and House of Delegates endorsed Toni Preckwinkle because she gives us better leverage in a contract fight—and because, unlike her opponent, she opposes reducing our pensions or pushing new workers to a 401k plan.

Regardless of who wins the mayor’s race on April 2, we have to be ready for anything. That means getting our schools organized and our CATs up and running, breaking out our red shirts, using our PPCs to fight for better working conditions in our schools, and holding in-school union meetings on our proposals. Identify what matters in your school, what your colleagues are willing to fight for, what actions your school can take to elevate your issues—from flyering parents using the flyer at this link and making our case at LSC meetings to hitting BOE meetings and staging press conferences and public events.

Finally, members should start saving. We don’t know if we’ll need to strike the new mayor, but we better be ready, so start saving at least 10% of each check going forward to make sure we can stand strong on the picket line.

We know what fighting and winning looks like from inspiring examples across the nation, from West Virginia to the spectacular victory in Los Angeles—and right here at home, with our historic strikes against UNO/Acero and CICS. We helped inspire the national #RedForEd movement—and we know that when we fight, we win.

In Solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
President, Chicago Teachers Union