My CTU Siblings,

Here’s the TLDR: we need to be ready to change our tone and approach to bargaining with CPS.

We’re asking you to advocate for your students and schools at next week’s CPS budget hearings: sign up for the first budget hearing here.

The longer version is worth your read.

As you know, last week was significant for our union. On Thursday, we rallied loud and clear at the CPS Board meeting to protest their ritual of summer layoffs. On Friday, we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge on behalf of paraprofessionals who lost positions in violation of our contract. And last Sunday, our contract officially expired.

The 2019-2024 agreement was a historic contract that followed an unprecedented strike. It included monumental wins such as a nurse and social worker in every school, the creation of restorative justice coordinators, and a 40% wage increase for our lowest-paid paraprofessionals.

Going into negotiations, we were prepared for things to be different. Chicago elected a middle school teacher, a union teacher, and a mayor whose vision for transforming our schools and our city aligns with what our experiences have shown us would best serve Chicago’s students and communities.

While we saw longtime supporters of public education and our union appointed to the Board of Education, we were all still leery of the “Lightfoot leftovers” in key positions at CPS. Nonetheless, we were prepared to try a new approach focused on collaboration, communication, and respect. But now it’s clear: the CPS CEO is not negotiating with us with the same approach.

While some members of the CPS bargaining team and the newly configured labor department within the Mayor’s office have facilitated our progress in multiple ways, one large issue is presenting itself: Pedro Martinez’s old approach.

  • When CTU asked district leaders to coordinate our work to secure funds for CPS, CEO Martinez dragged his feet. It took months before we held a press conference showing we could work together in the best interest of our city, our students, and our members. It took another year for him to allow educators to support those efforts directly.
  • Our first public bargaining session (in which so many of you participated) generated what we believed to be real headway. We set a new tone, brought new transparency, and made progress on important issues. CPS has not returned or signed off on the sections they said were already tentative agreements. And CEO Martinez was a no-show at that historic first session.
  • We’ve proposed open bargaining focused on the student experience for the last week of July and financing in the first two weeks of August. Despite the city and CPS agreeing to hold a series of open sessions, Martinez has refused to agree to the next dates.
  • We attempted to make negotiating as smooth as possible by overlaying our contract proposals with the Mayor’s own transition plan, giving both sides a starting point for the priorities we already agree on. CPS hasn’t provided or returned a single substantive proposal throughout this process.
  • Despite state mandates and our Mayor’s commitment to special education services, CPS is setting up a scenario where special education is at risk if they replace essential staff with cuts.
  • And Martinez chose to lay off hundreds of PSRPs, overwhelmingly Black and Latine women, the backbone of our schoolsWe held a press conference at the Board of Education last week,​ taking a stand against these unnecessary cuts. He had a chance to try something different for CPS, looking ahead instead of slashing resources, including revisiting the gigantic expenditures for Skyline, a curriculum we’re told is voluntary, but we get punished for not using. Instead, Pedro Martinez chose his old approach. Our contract won layoff protections for many of these PSRPs, but these fights wouldn’t be necessary if our CEO put our school communities first. (If you have layoff questions or need support fighting cuts at your school, please contact your Field Rep or Organizer.)

Everything we’ve won in previous contracts was because of members’ unity and willingness to take action: organizing our communities, protesting for justice, and striking for decent contracts.

We have hoped to create a new partnership with CPS. We’re ready for a cooperation that could set a national example of what organized educators and school management could achieve together. We’re ready for a partnership that matches and makes possible the transformative vision for the city that Chicagoans are hungry for. But it’s impossible when CPS leadership drags its feet and rejects that partnership.

We have our bargaining rights back and can negotiate our contract in ways we haven’t since 1995. CPS must recognize that this is a new day.

As CPS CEO, Martinez may have inherited the bad deals Rahm and Rauner made with big banks in the past, predatory loans that put CPS in hundreds of millions of debt, but he doesn’t have to use the same playbook they did. Frankly, we won’t let him.

Chicago has new leadership in the Mayor’s office because our city wants better.

This union is ready for a better relationship with CPS — for all of us. The question is, will CPS make a choice to try something new and create better together?

Our next opportunity to turn out together will be the budget hearings, which will occur at CPS headquarters at 4 p.m. on July 16th and 6 p.m. on July 17th.

Sign up to attend the 4 p.m. July 16th budget hearing

Sign up to attend the 6 p.m. July 17th budget hearing

In solidarity,

CTU Vice-President Jackson Potter