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CTU President Jesse Sharkey emailed this update to rank and file CTU members Wednesday evening.

Keep calm and carry on remotelyTonight, the mayor, her top public health official, and her CPS CEO declared that their lockout of CTU members will continue Thursday. And remarkably, this includes locking out even the educators and students in the Virtual Academy, which is CPS’ remote-only option.

The mayor’s team at CPS will no doubt continue to shame us for asserting our right to “safe and healthful conditions” at work, as Article 14-1 of our contract provides.

Yet, in just the last two days, we’ve seen more movement at the bargaining table than in the last few months. Unfortunately, this confirms the pattern. The mayor won’t budge until we demonstrate our willingness to collectively assert our demands. The mayor’s response is to try to demonize the CTU for “breaking off negotiations,” even though they’ve only just now begun negotiating in earnest.

Tomorrow, you should again attempt to log in and document your work. You should send a customized version of this letter to your principal, and if you have additional questions, please consult this very useful FAQ. You should also continue to tale solidarity photos of yourself wearing red ready to work remotely and post them to social media.

Tomorrow, however, we also need to turn our attention to reaching out to the families who entrust their children to us. Each and every day, hundreds of thousands of families send their children to our classrooms, and we need to make sure that they understand what our collective action is about. So check your inbox tomorrow morning for a leaflet you can use to help parents sign up for COVID testing at school and sign a petition in support of our demands. We’re asking members at every school to make a plan to reach out to parents in your school community. Meet up at or near your school, perhaps on your lunch hour, and figure out how to reach out to CPS families in the area!

Also, tomorrow at 6 pm (tentative), there will be a panel featuring health care workers talking about the impact of this pandemic spike on hospitals and their work. As ICU beds fill up throughout Cook County and beyond, health care workers are collectively advocating for the kinds of measures we’re also fighting for. Stay turned for more details.

If you missed the all-member meeting that was held at 6 pm earlier this evening, you can log in to MemberLink to view it. To date, it’s our largest virtual meeting yet, and it really lays out the overall context in which this effort is unfolding.

Locked outThe car caravan earlier this afternoon brought hundreds (perhaps more?) of cars and members to downtown Chicago. After a very chilly press conference at Union Park, we drove past City Hall as a symbol of our resolve to secure a safe return.

Today, we also filed an unfair labor practice charge demonstrating that the mayor’s CPS team have shown absolutely no respect for the bargaining process. They falsely claim that we’re engaging in an illegal strike, when we WANT to teach but can’t because they’ve locked us out. We have rights to safety and we’ve been at the bargaining table for 20 months to secure those rights. We haven’t shifted the goal posts one bit; in fact, we’ve been saying the same thing for months: Please, work WITH us to set up comprehensive testing, work with us to vaccinate students, and work with us to establish basic guard rails. This document outlines how the mayor’s CPS team has rejected those offers at every turn. It’s also a quick way to reacquaint yourself with our struggle with the mayor’s bargaining team since the summer, especially with the mayor dropping tonight that the city has filed — or is going to file — its own ULP.

At a time when the positivity rate in Chicago is more than 23% and ICU beds are dwindling, the mayor’s team at CPS either needs to honor our demand to teach remotely, or they must implement adequate mitigations, including robust testing, sufficient staffing and subs, and a school-level metric to trigger a pause in in-person instruction.

Without such mitigations, we know that CPS buildings aren’t safe. By sticking together and demonstrating the strength of our solidarity to the mayor and all of Chicago, we can win the safety that Chicago’s students and parents deserve.

When we fight, we win.

In safety and solidarity,

Jesse Sharkey

CTU President

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.