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Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have agreed to the appointment of a fact finding panel to commence its work on May 1, 2012.   The three-member panel will include CTU Vice-President and representative Jesse Sharkey, CPS representative Joseph Moriarty, and neutral Chairperson, Arbitrator Edwin H. Benn. 
The CTU-CPS labor contract expires on June 30, 2012, and the parties remain far apart in their bargaining positions.   Under amendments to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act passed on June 13, 2011, , in the absence of agreement, and following mediation efforts, the parties must convene a fact finding panel, which has 75 days to issue a report recommending terms for settlement of the labor contract.  Upon issuance of the report on July 15, 2012, the parties then have 15 days to accept or reject the recommendation of the fact-finding panel. 
Proceedings of the fact finding panel are expected to be confidential and are not open to the public.  In the event that either party rejects the recommended settlement, the chair-person of the fact-finding panel shall publish the recommendation to Chicago newspapers.  Thirty days after publication, the Union is then free to strike, provided it has given a 10-day strike notice and its members have voted to authorize a strike.
“Public school teachers are not looking forward to a strike next year,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis, “we look forward to being in our classrooms with our students.  However, given the hostile climate created by the current administration, it is imperative that we are all prepared.”
“It took 30 years for CTU to gain collective bargaining rights for our members,” Lewis continued. “These rights guarantee workers a fair contract with safe working conditions, a reasonable work day, adequate pay and some protections for our students.   Teachers and education support personnel deserve the ability to protect their rights in the workplace and have a say in their job as educators.”