Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has repeatedly acted in defiance of ISBE, the governor and the needs of stakeholders in our school communities. That bad judgment now extends to the very concept of remote learning as CPS tries to unnecessarily push our members back into buildings despite the risks.
CPS is arguing that some members should begin reporting for in-person work – even when their duties can be completed from home. CPS is putting the health and safety of our members, their families and communities at risk—most immediately, for our school clerks who are being told to report in tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26.
Incredibly, CPS admitted in bargaining today that they do not yet even have a full safety plan in place, nor are they even ready to train our members on proper safety protocols.
Click on the video below for an update from our bargaining team on this latest outrageous move by CPS—and learn what you can do about it.
ISBE has told school districts they must bargain over remote learning conditions. Yet on Monday, CPS announced that a range of our members—starting with school clerks—must work in-person, in schools, including technology coordinators, occupational and physical therapists, speech language pathologists, social workers, school psychologists, sign language interpreters and more.
Public health guidance is clear: Any work that can be done remotely shoud be done remotely. All CTU members should have the same rights.
If your work can be completed from home, you should have that option. CTU members, who have already successfully performed many work duties from home, must not be sent into the buildings recklessly, unnecessarily or unsafely.
- SCHOOL CLERKS: Every school clerk who believes in-person work may be dangerous to them or their family without negotiated protections should email this template letter to their principals. This letter informs them that you believe it is unsafe to report to the school full-time, in-person, regardless of the actual needs. It says that you are available to work remotely until those concerns are addressed by CPS.
- Delegates and school leaders, convene school-wide union meetings to discuss concerns about remote learning plans at your school, the CPS guidelines and to mobilize support for clerks and other members being directed into unsafe working conditions.
We believe that the letter above will protect you, but members will face intimidation, with orders to report and threats that they will be docked pay if they do not report for in-person work. If you feel it’s unsafe for you to enter a CPS building, then act on your conscience, submit the letter and refuse to work in person until safety measures are in place. Your union will stand behind you.
We’ve filed a grievance over the district’s unfair labor practices surrounding our clerks and their work, and an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the Labor Board. In the meantime, delegates, please consider reaching out to your school clerk to make sure they know they can count on your support if they use the option above, and tell your principal that they will be working from home until safety assurances are in place.
Our clerks are majority Black and Brown women, many of whom are heads of their households who live in zip codes with high numbers of both COVID-19 cases and deaths. Their lives matter. And the overwhelming majority of their work can clearly be done remotely, as they did this spring and summer.
CPS principals need to hear that our contract protects us from unsafe working conditions—and that they need to work with school clerks and other impacted members to find solutions. We’ll be reminding the mayor’s hand-picked Board of Education at their August 26 meeting and in our ongoing bargaining.
COVID-19 infections have spiked in school communities that have moved to in-person learning, from UNC/Chapell Hill to schools in Seoul, South Korea (despite that nation’s strong track record of COVID-19 mitigation). Across the United States, school administrators that pushed in-person/hybrid schooling have been forced to backtrack as cases have spiked.
We have been right about COVID-19 since March, when we first pushed Mayor Lightfoot to close schools to protect students and workers. We’ve laid out how to improve remote learning for all, pointed to successful models across the nation, and led with the science at every turn. Our members worked their hearts out this spring, and have spent the summer refining our practices to get ready for this fall—which will be remote for students only because we threatened to strike if the mayor offered anything less than remote learning.
CPS continues to reject all of our proposals, so once again we’ll have to force them to do the right thing.
This is a struggle for the lives and livelihoods of our members, and it calls on each and every one of us to show our solidarity and fight for what we know is right. And when we fight, we win.