CPS move seeks to force CTU teachers, paraprofessionals, support staff to begin next school year with no contract—and no relief from overcrowded classrooms, severe staff shortages, chronically under-resourced school communities.

CHICAGO, April 29, 2019—The CTU has formally requested that a federal mediator be brought in as the union bargains for a new contract with CPS for more than 20,000 rank and file teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff. The union’s contract expires on June 30.

At a bargaining session with the district on Thursday, April 25—just hours after CTU President Jesse Sharkey urged incoming mayor Lori Lightfoot to work cooperatively with the union to realize their shared support for equitably managed and funded public schools—CPS attorney Jim Franzcek delivered a letter to the bargaining team stating that that Mayor-elect Lightfoot did not intend to honor the timeline for bargaining that CPS and the CTU agreed to last August.

The CTU has formally responded, calling for mediation in contract negotiations to begin on May 1—this Wednesday—and rejecting CPS’ effort to unilaterally abandon the agreed-upon timeline. The union also noted its expectation that the mayor-elect would fulfill the commitments she made publicly to support equity for CPS students and their educators—the platform for which the CTU has been battling since 2010.

CPS’ proposed move would further delay talks that have made little progress since they began in February, which increases the likelihood that teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff would not have a contract in place by the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Meanwhile, CTU members at charter schools are scheduled to stage the third strike of charter operators this school year on May 1, in those educators’ battle for more classroom resources and support for students in publicly funded charter schools.

“We intend to call in a mediator and move forward with bargaining by May 1,” said Sharkey. “We cannot go a year without a new contract. Working without a contract means our school communities will continue to suffer from oversized classrooms and working conditions subjected to the whims of the boss. Furthermore, CPS’ continued delays in bargaining jeopardizes the state-mandated bargaining process. We demand the respect of our timeline as a legally binding agreement, and we intend to fight for those legal rights.”

When Sharkey spoke last week at the City Club of Chicago, he reiterated the CTU’s contract demands and welcomed the promises that Mayor-elect Lightfoot made during her campaign. The incoming mayor ran on a platform that broadly supported CTU bargaining positions, including more resources in neglected school communities, training and comprehensive efforts to deal with trauma, schools as safe spaces and supportive environments for children, and more staffing of critical positions such as certified school nurses, counselors and social workers.

“We intend to hold Ms. Lightfoot’s administration to those campaign promises, and we are committed to defending and winning what we have demanded at the bargaining table,” said Sharkey.

To support their demands for educational equity, CTU members are rallying on May 22 at Keeping the Promise: Rally for a Fair Contract.

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.