CTU blasts CPS bargaining team for continuing to stall on embedding campaign promise for public education equity in contract proposals and mayor’s false claims of bargaining “in good faith,” as union readies for possible fall strike.
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union blasted Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her negotiators today, less than 12 hours after the union’s contract formally expired, for continuing to stonewall at the bargaining table. The union has been negotiating since January for a contract that enshrines the equity promises of the two leading mayoral candidates in enforceable contract language.
With the CPS/CTU contract now officially expired, all terms and conditions of mandatory subjects of bargaining remain in place legally, although CPS has a track record of ignoring those legal constraints. The last time the CTU was forced to work without a contract, the appointed board of education robbed educators of contractually agreed upon wages by failing to honor educators’ steps and lanes, implemented furlough days—another hit on workers’ wages—and dismantled special education.
“Justice for our schools and our students is being denied,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “We’re not looking for conflict, but we’re willing to do whatever is necessary, including striking, if that’s what it takes to defend our students and our schools this fall.”
CTU bargaining team members laid out a dismal pattern of obstruction by Lightfoot’s bargaining team to address deep inequities that undercut students and schools—inequities that the CTU has sought to address in a new contract.
Those include demands for funding basic education supports, increasing diversity among teachers and staff, adequately staffing special education and bilingual education, providing each school with at least one librarian and school nurse, ending a desperate shortage of social workers and counselors, funding restorative justice staff and trauma supports, expanding in-school early childhood education, and providing schools with after-school, sports, music and arts programs. Lightfoot campaigned on these issues—but her negotiation team has opposed those demands at the bargaining table.
Instead, Lightfoot’s school bureaucrats and bargaining team—the same bargaining team that the previous mayor used as he furloughed school workers, laid off thousands of teachers and paraprofessionals and gutted school budgets—has failed to support language that would provide every school with a nurse, a librarian and a special education case manager to ease CPS’ chronic and illegal shortchanging of the needs of the district’s most vulnerable students. CPS has yet to agree to the CTU’s sanctuary language, which would close some of the carve-outs in Emanuel’s ‘Welcoming Cities’ ordinance, which continues to put immigrant children and families at risk of deportation. CPS has also moved to expand instead of curtail privatization of in-school pre-Kindergarten programming, despite evidence of high costs, poor services and graft associated with CPS privatization schemes. In May, CPS again slashed low-wage PSRPs—the overwhelmingly Black and brown women teacher assistants, school clerks and other critical frontline paraprofessionals who are the backbone of school communities who also bore the brunt of the previous regime’s layoffs.
The impacts for special education students has been acute.
“CPS was so flagrantly breaking the law that the Illinois State Board of Education has had to impose a monitor on the district to protect our special education students,” said special education teacher and bargaining team member Katie Osgood. “Today, despite the promises of this mayor and her predecessor, we still have hundreds of special education vacancies and impossible, unsustainable caseloads. Our contract proposals call on CPS to fully staff clinicians, social workers, school nurses and psychologists. Instead, the mayor’s newly hand-picked board of education voted to extend a racist school rating policy that punishes students and schools with high levels of trauma and poverty, and turns the struggles of our most needy students from from disabilities to liabilities.”
CPS has also refused to support CTU demands for real equity for pre-K students.
“Reports show that one in four of our littlest learners are not prepared for Kindergarten,” said PSRP Gloria Higgins. “Why then is CPS removing children and their qualified caregivers from our in-school pre-K programs, when we need more PSRPs and pre-K programming, not less? That’s just an excuse to hand this work off to even lower-wage, outside workers, more of the toxic privatization that hurt our students under Rahm. Many of our paraprofessionals and pre-K workers—mostly women of color—work two and three jobs just to survive. Yet the mayor has yet to even bother to ask us what we and our students need.”
While the CTU remains committed to attempting to bargain a contract grounded in equity for students and their educators, the union is also prepared to vote to strike this fall, if necessary.
“The bottom line is that today is the first day we stand here without a contract, still stuck in neutral,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. “Under Rahm, our members were forced to absorb lost wages and worsening working conditions that hurt our students—yet we’ve seen no real remedies from the new mayor. Lori Lightfoot ran on a platform built on our demands for equity for our students and respect for the work of the women and men who labor in our schools. If the partnership we were promised in the campaign continues to fail to materialize, it’s very simple: we will stop providing our labor.”
Both Davis Gates and Sharkey laid out a clear path to fund equity in Chicago’s public schools.
“We’re more than willing to work with the mayor on revenue ideas that generate enough for our school communities,” said Davis Gates. “Rich people still have money—more money today than ten years ago—and the State of Illinois continues to provide more funding for our district. We expect the mayor and her handpicked board of education to actually put those funds in our schools. We’re also fully committed to an elected school board—because this mayoral appointed board, like the previous appointed board, has refused to seize the opportunity to table a vicious tool used to close schools and fire Black educators.”
Sharkey hammered Lightfoot for policy decisions that have undermined her equity platform and her promise to Chicago’s schoolchildren—and rebutted her reported afternoon claim that her team is “bargaining in good faith“.
“CTU members, like other taxpayers, live in and pay taxes in Chicago,” said Sharkey. “Yet days before Lightfoot formally took office, she greased the skids to hand over billions of dollars in public TIF funds to Lincoln Yards and the ’78’—again, carving out public giveaways for the wealthy while the tax burden continues to fall disproportionately on ordinary residents. This mayor at the very minimum should instead be investing the public dollars we already have in our schools—instead of perpetuating the reckless polices of more work for fewer dollars, skyrocketing health care costs, furloughs and pay freezes and deep staff cuts. We’re not going to apologize for demanding an end to this assault on workers and the schools our students rely on. We’re sick of being stonewalled—and it’s time for the people who’ve profited generously from these so-called economic good times to pay their fair share.”
Today’s full CTU press conference can be viewed at this link.