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Last updated February 5, 2021

Contents

What are our top demands at the negotiating table? What is CPS asking for?

This is the most recent bargaining summary.

Telework Denials

CPS retracted approval of my telework.

If CPS retracted approval of your time, do not panic! CPS is legally required to pay you, and this is a scare tactic. Continue to work remotely. If you worked and CPS accepted your work product, then they are obligated to pay you. If your paycheck doesn’t reflect the amount you worked, then you should report that to the form at ctulocal1.org/wagetheft so we can add you to the grievance we are filing to cover everyone in this situation.

I’m a clerk or tech coordinator and I can’t enter TEL.

If you will be taking action with your union and working remotely, you should attempt to swipe in and out through Kronos. If you are blocked from swiping through Kronos, you should send an email to your principal at the beginning and the end of the work day to document your time. Make it clear that you are available for assignments related to your job title.

I’m a teacher and can’t enter TEL.

Send your principal or manager an email explaining that you will be working remotely. If you have access, you should then log into Google Classroom, if permitted, and continue your work day as you have been doing. You must be paid for work completed, and if your principal takes action to deny your pay, you should report it here: ctulocal1.org/wagetheft.

Lockouts

I think I’m blocked from Google Classroom.

Email your principal and cc your field rep. If you are locked out of your CPS email, send the emails below from your personal email and put your CPS email address in the CC field. Here is a suggested email text:

This email is to inform you that I attempted to log into Google Classroom on (date) unsuccessfully and believe that I am locked out. Please correct me if I am mistaken. I will continue to attempt to deliver instruction to my students remotely, grade student assignments, and prepare future lesson and unit plans until my access to Google Classroom is restored. I am also available for other assignments within the scope of my job responsibilities.

If you are directed by admin to log out, we suggest the following email:

This email is to confirm your directive on (date) that I log out of Google Classroom. I will continue to attempt to deliver instruction to my students remotely, grade student assignments, and prepare future lesson and unit plans until my access to Google Classroom is restored. I am also available for other assignments within the scope of my job responsibilities.

What about the members who have already been locked out, disciplined, or docked pay?

The Union’s goal is to include them in a settlement agreement and have them made whole. We have filed a grievance on their behalf. Members who have refused to work in-person should contact their field representative for additional guidance as more information becomes available.

Protecting educators from discipline for exercising their right to a safe workplace and making whole any members denied pay will be critical elements of any agreement to return to buildings. The Union has made a formal demand that the Board drop disciplinary proceedings against those they have locked out, reinstall their access, and make them whole if they’ve lost pay.

If you are working remotely, have not been locked out of Google classroom, but have been denied some portion of your pay, that is a clear case of wage theft and will not stand. The Union has already filed a grievance on behalf of all members denied pay while working. Please report your situation to us using this form: ctulocal1.org/wagetheft.

What sort of financial assistance is available for people experiencing hardship right now?

For those who are experiencing financial hardship right now, the Union has set up two ways to tap into funds.

One, you can apply for hardship relief from the GoFundMe campaign that the Union set up in the fall. The application form is available at ctulocal1.org/hardship. Educators and supporters from across the U.S. are donating to this fund in solidarity with the trail-blazing work being done by people like us here in Chicago!

Two, for CTU members who have been locked out for five or more days with a missed or reduced paycheck, you qualify for an interest-free loan from the AFT up to $300 per week. Apply for an AFT loan using this form (FAQ).

Collective Action

What does the remote-work resolution passed by an overwhelming majority of CTU members mean?

The first part of the resolution was triggered when CPS called back K-8 educators on Wednesday, January 27. So:

  1. Starting Wednesday, January 27, CTU began a union-wide action with all members working only remotely while we continue to work out a negotiated agreement with the Board.
  2. We are willing to keep working (remotely) and continue bargaining in good faith.
  3. If the Mayor and CPS decide to not let us keep teaching either by locking us out or by issuing discipline to our members who are working remotely, our action then becomes a strike. This would be a ULP (Unfair Labor Practice) strike. Because it is not a contract strike, the requirements for 75 percent of the members to vote yes did not apply.
  4. In a strike, all members should refrain from going into their buildings. No exceptions. We will be setting up picket lines at every worksite. Our strength comes from being united in solidarity.

Many of us are nervous about striking. How can we encourage and support our co-workers?

​There are plenty of understandable reasons why members might be nervous about the potential of striking during a pandemic, over remote learning, and at this time. It’s important to understand, however, that the alternative is not to keep the status quo. Some 80 percent of our members were directed to return to in-person work on January 27 in buildings that we know are not safe. So we have really only two options, both of which present real risks. We are working remotely — unless CPS retaliates against our members, which would trigger a strike — and we will continue to work remotely as long as it takes to reach an agreement with the Board.

Either we accept CPS’s reckless and unsafe plan OR we take a stand to protect our health and that of our students and families. We have voted to take a stand. Standing together strong and being united is really the only way to win gains at the bargaining table. It’s the way to protect lives and to stay safe.

Pre-k and cluster staff, along with specials teachers and clinicians who support their students, were forced back on January 4. Most have now been in-person with their students for two weeks. Should they join in the work action now and, if so, should they notify parents of students who have been coming in that they will be working remotely?

Yes. We all need to be together to make this job action work…for us and for our students. Parents generally support teachers, and we think communicating with them that you won’t be present is a good idea. If they still need to send their child, you can assure them that CPS is sending personnel from central office and the networks to assist with supervising students who come to school. You can tell them that you are willing and ready to work remotely to protect your health and the health of your students.

Why didn’t the Union take action when the clerks and tech coordinators were forced into work?

We did. The clerks and tech coordinators are Wave 0, and we organized the same efforts in the fall that we’re using now. We waged a legal, workplace, and an activist campaign. We presented a really strong case for why it was unsafe at an arbitration hearing. The arbitrator ruled decisively that the buildings were not safe and that they should be permitted to do all possible work remotely. She reaffirmed the ruling and elaborated. And yet CPS violated and ignored her order and used intimidation to keep people from exercising their rights.

Large-scale work actions are dependent on numbers for effectiveness and protection, and there must be a strategy to generate power. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t have been possible to get 25,000 members to go on strike against remote work in a way that could generate sufficient power to move CPS. But when they begin calling people back to buildings, the dynamic changes. Our strength as a union is in our buildings, and that’s precisely why this pandemic has made this struggle so challenging.

But also: That is why CPS did it that way. It’s the old ‘divide-and-conquer’ strategy. The fact that others weren’t in the buildings to see the risky situations made it even more isolating. We do understand. To combat these CPS attacks, we need large numbers, and we need unity. That has to be developed; it doesn’t happen overnight. There is no other real antidote to what CPS did.

While we’re taking part in the remote-work only job action, what will happen to members who don’t participate and go to work in-person at our school? Will they be considered scabs or removed from the union?

In a collective action we prefer that all members remain united. However, some administrators are trying to divide members and force them into the schools. A collective action is not a strike. If the Union finds if necessary to call a strike, then all members are required to stop work and attendance will be taken on picket lines. If a member crosses a picket line or works remotely during a strike, then the Union will take action against that member at a later time.

What if parents aren’t with us? Won’t people be mad at us because so many other workers have had to keep working in person?

We’ve been working, often harder than ever dedicating ourselves to online learning plans that provide robust curriculums across the school district. Parents overwhelmingly agree with a safe reopening plan since 63% will not commit to send their child into school using the current CPS hybrid plan. Since January 11, only 19% of the eligible students returned to CPS in-person learning. The Chicago Teachers Union wants a safe return to in-person learning for all students and employees. We are demanding Covid-19 testing at school sites, access to vaccines, and monitoring of infection rates based on city zip codes and school boundaries. Keeping students, schools and staff safe will assist in keeping communities safe from Covid-19.

Can we really win?

Since the beginning shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March, we have made huge strides towards a safe work environment and a responsible reopening. The mayor and CPS wanted schools to remain open in March 2020. Governor JB Pritzker stepped in and ordered the schools closed. The CTU Leadership has been bargaining with the Board since then regarding teaching, evaluation, grading and a safe reopening for all students and employees, but CPS didn’t even begin sending its decision-makers to the table until the CTU started its collective action campaign, especially its vote to continue working remotely and to respond with solidarity in the event of retaliation by the mayor and CPS. Leadership has kept an eye on the infection rate, listened to top scientists and pushed back the Board many times on their plans for a reckless reopening of our schools. If we stay united as a collective union, we can continue to make gains that make sense for a safe reopening plan.

Will I lose my health insurance if we strike?

Health insurance is paid on the first day of every month. For the Board to cancel 25,000 members’ insurance, they would have to un-enroll each member. This is a mammoth task for the Benefits Department at the Chicago Public Schools. Leadership has the goal of getting our members back in these buildings safely. We have every intention to remain working either from the safety of our homes or in school buildings that have adequate safety measures in place.

What happens if we do go on strike? Will we be on picket lines?

We need every member to participate in the strike every day in order to demonstrate the unity and determination of our members. We know that this must look different during a pandemic. Parents need to see their teachers and educators “on the line” in addition to all the other ways that we’re fighting to support and protect their school kids. We need to have safe, visible, strong picket lines at every school in the city starting at 7 am. Smaller schools will picket from 7 am to 10 am, and larger schools should be staffed in rotating shifts from 7-9 am and 9-11 am to keep numbers down for safety. All picketers must maintain a safe distance, and all participants must be masked. More guidelines for how to safely and creatively picket can be found at ctulocal1.org/captains.

What should members who have ADA , household, or caregiver accommodations do if we are on strike and on picket lines?

If you received an ADA accommodation for your health or that of a loved one you care for, you should NOT be on the physical picket line. If you are seen in such a situation, CPS may revoke your accommodation. If you are alone in your car, we believe that you are still maintaining isolation and that you can participate in such activities as drive-around pickets or car caravans. You should not get out of your vehicle or mingle with your colleagues, even outdoors at what you might consider a “safe” distance. We will find plenty of ways you can support the CTU if we are forced by the mayor to go out on strike!

ADA Accommodations

Own Condition: I’ve been told to report in person while awaiting a response on an ADA accommodation request I submitted for my own medical condition. What will happen to my request?

If you have requested a remote-work accommodation due to your own health condition, CPS policy (and the law) provides that you are able to continue working remotely until CPS responds to your accommodation request.

If your principal or manager continues to insist that you are to report in-person while awaiting a response on your accommodation request, send an email requesting that they contact the Talent Office to confirm CPS policy, copying your CTU field representative.

Caregiver: I’ve been told to report in person while awaiting a response on an ADA accommodation request that I submitted based on being a caregiver and/or the health condition of a family member. What will happen to my request?

CPS has stated that employees who have requested accommodations based upon being a caregiver or due to the health condition of a family member are required to report in-person while the accommodation request is pending. Notwithstanding that, you still have the right to refuse a work assignment that you believe places yourself and/or your family members in danger and to continue working remotely. If you believe that reporting to work in-person while your accommodation request is pending poses an abnormally dangerous health condition, you should send your principal or manager a letter exercising this right and continue working remotely.

What do we do if we have an approved or pending ADA accommodation? Will we lose our accommodation if we strike?

If you are approved for a workplace accommodation and a strike is called, you are not to work until an agreement is reached. Your accommodation will not be voided because you participated in a collective work action. The Union encourages all members to support each other and remain united. Don’t do anything physically that your ADA accommodation says is high risk or prohibited by your disability.

Miscellaneous

What about the court date? Is there an update?

Arguments were originally scheduled to begin January 26, but have been delayed — as often happens in court proceedings. We will continue to negotiate with CPS on a safe return in the meantime and continue taking collective action as a union to give us better leverage at the table and in the courts.