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Dear CTU Members:

I hope you’ve had a restful summer break that leaves you upbeat for another school year! As we get ready to welcome another group of students to our classrooms and our schools, know that you have both my deep respect and my appreciation for all you do to educate our students and keep our union strong. You are the beating heart of public education for our city’s children, and irreplaceable advocates for our students and our schools.

The start of the school year is always momentous, as we ready our classrooms and our buildings. This year is particularly pivotal, as we continue to bargain a new contract with CPS. Today, our bargaining team is officially rejecting the fact-finder report, part of a series of hoops we’re legally obligated to jump through as we fight for better working conditions for members and better learning conditions for students.

CPS instead wants to hold us to a paltry ‘raise’ with higher health insurance costs that work out to less than the rate of inflation—particularly for our lowest wage PSRPs, hundreds of whose children are eligible for free school lunches because their pay is so low. CPS wants to claw back rights we already have, on evaluation, professional development time and more. CPS refuses to put in writing the mayor’s promises to ease critical staff shortages—even as CPS proposed budget cuts positions and slashes funding to over 200 schools.

The heart of our union’s work this fall is winning a fair contract that improves our wages and our working conditions. We want to show our students, our parents and the public our dedication to our school communities in this first important week back—and rally support for the contract fight of the decade.

Solidarity Fridays and parent outreach 9/6

We’re ramping up our solidarity every Friday with a sea of red in our schools as we renew our Solidarity Friday campaign – so post your pictures to Twitter with @CTULocal1 in the message and hashtag #SolidarityFriday and #FairContractNow, post pics to our Facebook page, or email pics to our comms team!

CPS is reaping a billion dollars a year in new revenue. They can afford our demands for smaller classes, adequate staffing, better wages and benefits and real educational justice for students and the educators who serve them. We want to make sure parents and community residents understand this! That’s why we’re flyering parents on the first Friday students return to school—September 6—so be sure to download a copy of our parent flyer and get them into your parents’ hands.

Building public support and power in our schools

As you get ready for your students, here are a few things you can do each day to help strengthen public support for our contract fight. Use our social media accounts and our communications staff—our Facebook and Twitter feeds (be sure to tag @CTULocal1) and communications@ctulocal1.org—to spread the word about your first week back:

  • You’re preparing your classrooms for a smooth school year—so share that work with the union and the public, and use the hashtags #PrepTime (something CPS wants to REDUCE), #TeachersPrepare and #PutItInWriting.
  • Take selfies with your colleagues that help people understand that you’re happy and excited to be back at work.
  • Share photos of your dining room table or your home work space with the hashtag #TeachersComePrepared.
  • Take a pic of your classroom and you at work in that space, preparing your classroom, sitting in principal-directed PDs, and creating lessons, units and curriculum maps.
  • Sign up a new member at your school or in your work group, take a photo and share it with us! Take pictures of you holding union meetings and gathering with your CAT teams—your Contract Action Teams. Use the hashtags #PrepTime and #TeachersPrepare
  • Don’t be shy about sending pix of classrooms that are NOT ready for our students. We’re already receiving these. We deserve clean, welcoming workspaces. Let’s let our parents and the public know about problems.
  • Screenshot your classroom rosters (redacting all private information) if you’ve got more students than you should—and use the hashtag #ClassSizeMatters.

Using our rights!

  • We have rights, even though CPS would like to claw them back. Make your administrators respect those rights and contact your field rep with any problems!
  • Check out September’s issue of CUT—Chicago Union Teacher—for more information on how to build power and solidarity in your schools, the timeline for bargaining, what we’re fighting for and more.
  • Go to our web page for breaking news, resources and updates as our contract fight heats up. Our officers and our union staff are here to help you use the contract to improve our collective strength and win better working conditions for members and better educational opportunities for students. Our unity is our most powerful strength in winning a strong contract and the schools our students deserve!
  • Even as CPS is trying to increase our health insurance costs in the next contract, we’re fighting the last contract-busting increase they illegally imposed on us in January. That grievance has gone to arbitration. Look for a decision this September.
  • Talk to your parents and volunteers starting on day one of school about why we’re fighting to strengthen our contract—and learning conditions in our schools. Check out our contract action page for more info on what we’re fighting for and what parents and neighborhood residents need to know.
  • Make sure you’re scheduling school meetings this week to talk about bargaining, school conditions and next steps in our contract fight.

We can make real gains in our new contract that truly transform our work and our schools. Our unity is our most powerful strength, and when we stand together we are unstoppable.

In solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey
President, Chicago Teachers Union