A message to rank and file members from CTU Deputy General Counsel Thaddeus Goodchild:
We’re planning for next steps on the unfair labor practice and grievance we’ve filed against CPS for forcing clerks and other workers into buildings without bargaining on working conditions—a case which we expect to go to trial in the very near future.
Wednesday morning, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) heard arguments on our ULP charge. The IELRB strongly indicated that CPS has acted unlawfully, and it rejected CPS’s defense that it has no duty to bargain over requiring employees to report for in-person school work. This follows on the heels of a complaint issued by the IELRB Executive Director against CPS last week over management’s move to direct that school clerks report for in-person work before commencing negotiations with CTU over this decision.
Preliminary injunctive relief is generally difficult to obtain, and unsurprisingly the IELRB did NOT agree that CPS’s conduct justifies an immediate injunction pending a final ruling on the merits of the case. Now we go to trial.
CPS has, of course, distorted the IELRB’s findings and instead spun this as a ‘victory’ for management, when in fact the opposite is the case—hence the IELRB’s move to convene a trial on our charges. To be clear, we expect the IELRB to move swiftly to set a trial date given the extraordinary circumstances we presented in this case—the severe risks to health and safety by entering CPS buildings and interacting directly with staff and the public, and the clarity of CPS’s unfair labor practice in unilaterally changing terms of employment.
Certain IELRB members expressed reluctance to grant an injunction instead of traditional IELRB remedies, including potential retroactive hazard pay or relief through arbitration, all of which remain options on the table. The Acting IELRB Chair, Lynne Sered, asked that the IELRB move the CTU’s ULP charge to trial before an administrative law judge on an expedited basis for a ruling on the merits. Notably, there are 2 vacancies on the 5-member IELRB Board because Governor Pritzker has yet to appoint new members, who we expect would likely be more receptive to worker needs, so only three IELRB members heard the case.
So we’ll press ahead to trial as we continue to gather information from rank and file school clerks and other members about current conditions in buildings.
The CTU is also pursuing legal relief on multiple fronts. In addition to the IELRB charge now headed for trial, the CTU filed a grievance asserting that CPS has violated our contract by failing to guarantee that “bargaining unit employees shall work under safe and healthful conditions”—a guarantee under our labor contract. CPS’s current requirement that clerks report to school for their full work day, every day of the week, for the entire first academic quarter, despite all instruction being conducted remotely and regardless of whether their work duties could be completed remotely, violates this health and safety guarantee. An emergency hearing on the grievance has been set before an arbitrator next week, on September 15 and 16.
The Union will also continue to press CPS in negotiations to agree to adequate safety measures and reasonable working terms for school clerks—including that work that can be done remotely be allowed to be completed remotely to avoid unnecessary health and safety risks.
We safeguard ourselves and fellow CTU members through solidarity—and your actions matter. If you have entered a school building in the lead up to this new school year, we need you to report what you saw and experienced while you were there. So far, we’ve heard from dozens of clerks, technology coordinators, teachers and clinicians who have had to go into school. The reports, so far, raise real concerns.
As we continue to confront CPS about these unsafe conditions, we can strengthen our hand in negotiations and upcoming legal proceedings by providing concrete evidence that their current actions aren’t good enough. Whatever you are experiencing—good or bad—we need to know.
If you’ve been to a school building, completing the survey above is a form of solidarity and critical documentation that can yield concrete results. Thank you for taking the time to fight for your own safety and for the safety of tens of thousands of fellow CTU members. We’ll keep you posted on next steps and developments.
CTU Deputy General Counsel