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It’s been a wild six months, fraught with uncertainty and challenges as the planet wrestles with a deadly global pandemic. In March, we were locked in a pitched battle to push Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools to protect you, students and families from the ravages of COVID-19 by closing schools. Common sense prevailed, and you made remote learning work, despite CPS’ ongoing failure to include in its conversations the educators, parents and students who were directly impacted. You spent the summer refining your practice to make the experience this fall as robust and rewarding as possible.

Now we’ve formally begun teaching our students. We’ve missed them terribly, and they need our support. You, like our students, deserve empathy, equity and flexibility as we enter another school year. We know this year will be challenging—in no small part because our employer seems incapable of treating workers with dignity, and showing students love and support. Nearly 355,000 children and their families are counting on us to meet and exceed the challenges of our students’ educational needs this fall, and there is nothing that we cannot tackle on their behalf.

Through all of this, your union is with you. Together, our advocacy is powerful. We pushed the mayor and the district to abandon a dangerous hybrid plan to open schools to in-person learning, even as many communities were experiencing double-digit COVID-19 positivity rates. We challenged inhumane CPS remote learning policies in grievances, unfair labor practice complaints and bargaining. And we’ve re-affirmed our full commitment to racial justice and anti-racist work, including the support of members who hold anti-racist views or make anti-racist statements.

No members should stand with anti-union organizations, harass colleagues for their work or participate in campaigns to get colleagues fired for standing up for their students.

Today, we begin the new school year with hope, wisdom and the expertise we’ve developed as committed education professionals. Each of us, from school clerks and social workers, to computer technicians and school nurses, is a vital member of a school community. We have the knowledge, the insight and the fortitude to do what’s best for our students and the staff who serve them. Together, we are an unstoppable force, and we—not the mayor or the CPS officials who answer to her—will make this work for our schoolchildren and our profession.

We continue to demand that CPS provide our students with the equity and resources the mayor promised as a candidate. Our work with city and school leaders remains slow and unnecessarily contentious, yet our unity has always allowed us to prevail. This fall is no different.

Your union is here for you—from your field reps, to elected delegates, to rank-and-file educators serving on CTU committees. Together, we will win equity and support for the schools our students deserve, and support one another in these unprecedented times.