On Wednesday, we have a hearing in front of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) on our unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint against Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s CPS leadership team. The charge is disregarding January’s COVID-19 Related Safety Protocols Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and unilaterally implementing a mask-optional policy without bargaining with the Union.

Today, based on our ULP charge, the labor board issued a complaint against CPS for disregarding the MOA and its mask requirement. This moves the case to a trial, which is tentatively set for June. Tomorrow, the labor board will hear our request for a preliminary injunction that would require CPS to abide by the terms of our MOA — including the universal masking requirement — until that June trial ends, or until the terms are bargained and changed with consent from the district and all rank-and-file members.

What to expect

If the labor board rules in favor to grant an injunction, CPS must immediately comply with the masking requirement under our safety agreement until we come to terms via trial or bargaining. In that case, the Illinois attorney general would go to court to seek an injunction against CPS on behalf of the labor board.

If the labor board does not rule in our favor to grant an injunction, our ULP still moves forward to a trial before an administrative law judge, along with the seven (that’s right, seven) other COVID-19-related ULPs we have pending against the district.

Our legal team believes we have a strong case for a preliminary injunction. We hope labor board members are able to tune out the right-wing political chaos around COVID-19 school safety measures, and apply the law as it is written.

In either case, our union will continue to fight to defend our contractual rights, and most critically, the health and safety of you, your students and all families.

Pandemic continues

We know that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disproportionately affect our Black and Brown students, families and their South and West side communities the most. We also know that we have many children in our school communities who are medically vulnerable or too young be protected by COVID-19 vaccines.

The mayor’s politicization of safety mitigation like masking makes our ongoing advocacy that much more critical, because this pandemic is not done with us yet. Cases are rising again in Asia and Europe. Germany today hit a fresh infection record for the fourth day in a row, while schools in Wales are returning to remote learning and scientists are calling for increased child vaccinations across Britain as cases among children surge.

CPS needs to bargain

We will need CPS to bargain with our union, improve vaccination education and outreach, increase testing and more to keep school communities safe. Lives are at stake, so if the masking policy is changed, we will need more from the district in the following areas:

  • A transparent metric that would be used to determine when universal masking would be required again.
  • Training and guidance to ensure those who continue to wear masks are not stigmatized and power dynamics are not abused.
  • Classroom-specific mask requirements to protect immunocompromised individuals.
  • Expansion of the Virtual Academy to allow additional vulnerable staff and students to be remote.
  • Extra paid work made available to teachers, clinicians and PSRPs to sign up additional students and families for vaccination events.

Tools to protect yourself

We don’t expect the mayor or her CPS team to suddenly develop a muscle for cooperation, or to stop prioritizing the political needs of a few over the health and safety needs of many. So we continue to exercise every option to support safety, including the powerful tools in our MOA and the following:

  • If your personal health is threatened by the removal of masks, we are pursuing a lawsuit and consulting with disability rights groups and other allies. If you are willing to be a plaintiff, please contact CTU Attorney Latoyia Kimbrough and let her know.
  • If your school community feels strongly about wearing masks, take a vote and decide together to mask for safety; inform the LSC of your decision.
  • Continue to document and report inadequate COVID-19-related safety conditions to the District Safety Committee at ctulocal1.org/report.
  • Take a school solidarity pic with your masks on and share on social media with #MaskingForAFriend, tag @ctulocal1 or email to our Communications team at communications@ctulocal1.org.
  • Flyer parents before and/or after school. Download print flyers (English and Spanish) at ctulocal1.org/graphics or pick up flyers at CTU HQ, 1901 W. Carroll.
  • Print out a poster about why you’re still masking and tape it on your door. Find posters at www.ctulocal1.org/graphics.
  • Organize a paid phone bank to do outreach to parents to sign up students to test and to attend vaccination events.
  • Check out our twice-weekly safety committee office hours on Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. to get your questions answered and brainstorm action plans with other members. Join via Zoom at ctulocal1.org/SafetyHour

We stand up for maximum safety in our schools because we care about each other — our colleagues, students and all of our families. The mayor’s move to violate our agreement is outrageous, but our unity and our solidarity keeps us organized and guides our shared commitment to continue to make safety the top priority.

Click on the image below to jump straight to our landing page with graphics and tips for how to run a school meeting and tackle safety issues in your building.

Graphic of posters promoting continued mask usage in CPS schools that read, "I’m keeping my mask on..."