The vote totals tonight are a clear show of dissatisfaction with the boss. It’s outrageous that teachers, clinicians, counselors, PSRPs, librarians and other educators had to endure a week of being locked out by the mayor just to get a commitment from her bargaining team to provide every student with an N95 mask — in a pandemic.
But I’m extremely proud of your courage and sacrifice, and for taking a stand in working remotely for four days in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our school communities. Our union, all 25,000+ members, have put up the biggest fight of any teachers union in the country, despite a pandemic that has made conditions extremely difficult and taxing for us all.
This agreement covers only a portion of the safety guarantees that every one of our school communities deserve. Put bluntly, we have a boss who does not know how to negotiate, does not know how to hear real concerns and is not willing to respect our rank and file enough to listen to us when we tell her we need more protection. Our members’ vote today represents a union’s, and a city’s, frustration with a mayor that has simmered since the beginning of this pandemic. We’ve been fortunate that Governor Pritzker has led responsibly, including an offer of hundreds of thousands of SHIELD tests to the district, that the mayor rejected for weeks. But you deserve more, and the families you serve deserve more.
You have kept students, teachers, parents and community members safe, and improved conditions in your schools. You have put a spotlight on unsafe conditions, and increased awareness of those conditions and the widespread need for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. You have also put a spotlight on the mayor’s disregard for safety, health care and our lives.
This agreement does give us the enforceable right to additional protections, and we have every intention of organizing at the school level across the city to continue protecting the safety of our students and their families.
Do you deserve more? Yes. Do your students and our communities deserve more? Absolutely. But the mayor is so angry at us for winning so much over the past year and a half, she refused to provide even basic safety mitigations. That’s a failure of leadership, although we knew who the real leaders were all along — you and your colleagues.
As a CPS father, I understand the fear and concern. So does Stacy, a CPS mother, and Christel, who is recovering from COVID-19. We have much work to do as a union, and a city, to survive this pandemic and begin the healing process we all need. I hear all the criticism, but when I hear that criticism prefaced with “I believe in my union,” that gives me hope that we can heal, and be stronger, together.