Rank-and-file rally on May 22 coincides with new mayor’s meeting with CTU President Emerita Karen Lewis, whose leadership helped pave the path for progressive candidates in City Hall.
CHICAGO, May 23, 2019—The Chicago Teachers Union urges Mayor Lori Lightfoot to participate in a June 11 open bargaining session as the next step in negotiations for a new contract between the Union and Chicago Public Schools, and as part of her administration’s commitment to transparency, openness and accountability. Open bargaining puts any member of the rank-and-file—and potentially any concerned member of the public—in the room as management and labor bargain, providing for full disclosure of key sticking points and efforts to move beyond them to an agreement.
The CTU has asked for three open bargaining sessions for rank-and-file members and the public, but CPS has yet to agree. This initial session is open to CTU members only. The contract with the district expires June 30, 2019.
“We share many concerns with the mayor when it comes to our schools, from the need for increased clinician and paraprofessional staffing to facilities issues and sustainable community schools,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “What we don’t have, however, is an elected, representative school board, and in lieu of that, we’re holding open bargaining sessions and inviting her to join CPS parents, rank-and-file members and community partners as we bargain for the common good and improving our schools.”
“We are also hopeful that Mayor Lightfoot will join the coalition of parents and communities advocating for the passage of the elected school board bill by May 31.”
As CTU rank-and-file members, supporters, City Council members, and state and national union leaders gathered at the Thompson Center on Wednesday for the “Keep the Promise” rally for educational equity, Mayor Lightfoot was meeting with the Union’s beloved President Emerita Karen Lewis and newly elected CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. Lightfoot also issued a video about an hour after the rally began to thank teachers and support staff, and state how important it was to support teachers and education professionals.
Lightfoot said that while she wished she could join educators at the rally, she “heard” their concerns and was “looking forward to working together to make sure that all schools have the resources they need to succeed.”
“Mayor Lightfoot is correct in saying that it’s a new day in Chicago, and she made a number of campaign promises that would dramatically improve conditions in our schools,” Sharkey said. “But our union has been the keeper of those promises since 2010, and while we’re glad to have a mayor whose agenda mirrors our own, our members intend to hold her to her promises.”
Sharkey called Lightfoot’s meeting with Lewis an important step in advancing real educational justice for students and educators, and hopes that the Union and CPS can reach a fair agreement that supports the Union’s economic and social justice demands before the beginning of the school year. Lewis is revered in public education as a voice for disenfranchised students and their educators, and as an advocate in ensuring that the district’s overwhelmingly Black and Latinx students have access to educators who look like them and understand their experience as children of color.