Chicago Public Schools initiated discipline cases against a significant number of our members in retaliation for their activism around its outrageous efforts to force educators back into school buildings during the pandemic, without collectively bargained COVID-19 safety standards.

In a side letter to our Memorandum of Agreement on the Resumption of In-person Instruction (“MOA”) that was ratified by membership earlier this month, CPS agreed not to pursue disciplinary action against any member who had been issued an AWOL notice for continuing remote work and declining unsafe work assignments prior to the MOA being in place. Our union has also filed two class action grievances related to these cases: one seeking to recoup pay that CPS withheld from members for remote work during this period and another over CPS engaging in member lockouts that violate our contract.

In the side letter, CPS agreed to drop 59 of the 114 discipline cases it had initiated alleging that educators had improperly communicated with parents in connection with the resumption of in-person learning. The district reserved all rights to challenge the remaining 55 cases it refused to drop as part of the side letter.

The Union and our rank-and-file members have initiated a multi-pronged strategy to push back on this flagrantly retaliatory discipline, and it is already having an effect. As of today, CPS has dropped an additional 21 of the 55 cases, leaving 34 outstanding.

The disciplinary cases CPS brought against seven Union educators at Ravenswood Elementary alleging improper parent communication have been dropped. Thanks to the building-level and community organizing of the members at Ravenswood and excellent advocacy by their CTU representative, Annette Rizzo, the principal opted to take no disciplinary action following the pre-discipline meetings. This precedent should also be helpful in our challenges to other cases.

The CTU is mounting legal challenges concerning the remaining discipline cases as well. These discipline notices violate our contract, and last week the Union filed a class action grievance on behalf of all affected members. The discipline notices also amount to illegal retaliation for activity protected by state law, and the Union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on behalf of all affected members on Feb. 25.

There has also been good press coverage about these cases as parents and the public are seeing CPS’ efforts for what they are: retaliation against some of our Union’s most prominent and courageous activists in hopes of scaring members from exercising their rights in the future.

That is antithetical to what we stand for. When we fight together, we win together. And in these cases, we intend to keep fighting, and winning, together.