This week our delegates will vote on contract proposals that will begin our contract negotiations with Chicago Public Schools.

This is a new phase of our campaign to transform public school communities. Since 2012 we have bargained for the common good in an effort to create the schools Chicago students deserve.

In preparing for these negotiations, we received close to 1,000 ideas for contract proposals. More than 500 rank-and-file members engaged in refining these proposals during the course of over 60 meetings.

Thank You To Our Leaders

We want to recognize our committee chairs and the hundreds of rank-and-file members who submitted proposals. The Citywide PPC, led by Grievance Department Director Zeidre Foster and her partner-in justice PPC chair Josh Lerner, deserve special recognition for shepherding our union through this unique contract development process.

 

MEET OUR CONTRACT CAMPAIGN GURUS:

Zeidre Foster, the head of CTU’s Grievance Department, works to ensure the Chicago Public Schools is doing right by our members. Zeidre served as a field representative before becoming the director of the grievance department in 2020. She drove this contract process as a leader who understands the ins and outs of the challenges our members face day to day.

Zeidre Foster was born and raised by her grandmother in Freeport, just west of Rockford. As a child, Zeidre Foster always wanted to be a teacher. She had a classroom desk in her bedroom, where she and her friends would play school. She remembers a wonderful school experience, with supportive, loving educators, but none of them looked like her. Throughout grade school and high school, she only had three Black teachers — and two of them were her cousins.

Foster moved to Chicago in 1998 to attend the University of Illinois Chicago. After earning a degree in secondary education, she found her way to the history department at Englewood High School, where she worked with CTU President Stacy Davis Gates, Vice President Jackson Potter and Kurt Hilgendorf, now special assistant to the president. Working with such dynamic teachers — and future CTU leaders — ignited a fire in her to become an advocate as well as an educator.

“When I got to CPS, I saw the disparities between what I had growing up in school and the lack of resources and opportunities here,” she said.

“Fortunately, I worked with colleagues who were committed to the students of Chicago and made the best out of the resources they had. Those experiences were invaluable to me as a new teacher.”

She became a field rep for the Chicago Teachers Union in 2012. “I was a little concerned about how my advocacy for students would fit with being a field rep,” she admitted, “But I soon realized that empowering and supporting teachers to be better in the classroom is good for students because the teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

Zeidre Foster knows what it will take from CPS to transform our members’ day to day, and this is why she is such an effective leader.

Josh Lerner, chair of our citywide PPC, worked at Chavez School for seven years before moving to Peirce Elementary, where he provides bilingual and ESL education as an English Language Program Teacher. He also helps coordinate the school’s EL program.

Josh has worked with many asylum-seeking students and families and seen how our union has stepped up to support them. He brings his deep belief in rank-and-file unionism into this process. He worked at Chavez School for seven years before moving to Peirce Elementary, where he provides bilingual and ESL education as English Language Program Teacher and helps coordinate the school’s EL program. About a third of the school’s students are from working class Latine families.

During the pandemic, Josh and his colleagues worked to support 20 undocumented families at Peirce facing medical and financial challenges. This year he has joined colleagues providing support to new immigrants waiting for spots in more permanent shelters. “A trend across my teaching experiences has been working in bilingual education with newly arrived students,” he said. “Over the past year, our district has received so many asylum-seeking students and families, but our union has really stepped up and done inspiring and leading work to support them. I am really thankful to be a part of it.”

Last year, Josh and his family moved to Medellín, Colombia, where he researched the country’s immigration policies as a Fullbright Distinguished Teacher. “Colombia really stands apart from other countries in the region in the way it has addressed the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela,” he said. “The government there has provided temporary legal status to over 1.7 million Venezuelan refugees. I wanted to better understand policies toward housing and education for migrants in Medellin, to see what we can learn here in Chicago.” One of the highlights of his teaching career was earning National Board Certification in 2014. “It was through the National Board process that I made a commitment to myself to be a lifelong educator,” he said.

Like many CTU members, Josh became more involved in the union after the historic 2012 strike. He remembers picketing in the mornings on the corner of 47th and Ashland — with all the cars, trucks, and buses honking in support — then heading to mass rallies downtown. “Every afternoon we would go to the Loop and absolutely shut it down,” he said. “We took on Rahm and the neoliberal education reform movement and through that experience I developed my own class consciousness and understanding of rank-and-file, multi-racial, and social justice unionism.” The Chavez CTU delegate stepped down after the 2012 strike and Josh stepped up, serving as a delegate in one way or another ever since including as Pierce delegate, and serving on the union’s executive board.

Thank you to Zeidre Foster, Josh Lerner, and all of the members who served on our citywide PPC during this process. A union is about the “me” in the “we” — the pluralism of our movement means that you, no matter your role in our union right now, are a vital leader in telling the story of this contract.

We see you and we see your commitment.

This Week

As a member and a leader, we want you to know what this week looks like as we unveil our contract demands:

Monday

We will make the full contract proposal available to all members through MemberLink (you will need to be registered on the portal to access it).

Tuesday

CTU President Stacy Davis Gates’ Address to City Club, 11:30 a.m.

Wednesday

Our highest voting body, the nearly 800-member House of Delegates, will debate and vote on the proposals refined by the PPC.

Thursday

We will host an all-member TeleTown Hall to discuss the content and next steps.

From all of our officers, staff, and leadership — thank you. This is not easy work, but it is transformative work. It’s how we will create the Chicago our communities deserve.

In solidarity,

The Chicago Teachers Union Officers

Stacy Davis Gates, President

Jackson Potter, Vice President

Christel Williams-Hayes, Recording Secretary  

Maria Moreno, Financial Secretary