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Parents 4 Teachers statement on CTU decision to strike

by parents 4 teachers  |  September 30, 2016

Chicago teachers’ decision to strike Oct. 11 unless a fair agreement is reached should be a wakeup call for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It shows that teachers are, once again, ready to fight to protect their profession and their classrooms. This is good news, not bad, for CPS parents.

While no one wants a strike—not teachers, not parents—the union and its threat to strike give it leverage against the mayor and his rubberstamp school board few other groups have. The CTU is using that leverage to win important classroom improvements for students, as well as fair compensation and benefits for teachers. Those two things go hand in hand, because the working conditions for teachers are the learning conditions for Chicago children.

Ultimately, teachers will decide what a fair contract is and whether a strike is necessary to obtain one. Right now, though, it’s more important than ever to show the mayor that parents and the greater community support the teachers and will stand with them if they strike.

Years of budget cuts, crony contracts, unfunded mandates, booming class sizes, and lack of city leadership for progressive revenue have left our schools struggling just to get by. A world class city needs to make funding its schools a priority, not an afterthought. 

If it takes another teachers’ strike to send that message home to Rahm Emanuel, parents will be on the streets with teachers this year, just like they were in 2012.

VP Jesse Sharkey to lead protest at South Side bank today in fight for revenue

by ctu communications  |  September 30, 2016

CHICAGO—Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) leadership and rank-and-file members will lead a protest today at a branch of JP Morgan Chase bank on the city’s South Side, in a neighborhood where schools have been hit hard by devastating budget cuts. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey will be speaking about how JP Morgan is just one of the banks on the verge of making nearly a billion dollars in profits from Illinois taxpayers, much like Bank of America has done with funds that should have gone to Chicago’s public schools.

Earlier this year, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed on a private placement bond deal with JP Morgan— at a 7.75 percent interest rate—worth $150 million. JP Morgan was also the lead underwriter on a record-high 8.5 percent interest bond deal with CPS. The CTU is gravely concerned with how much the district is becoming indebted to banks instead of pursuing a responsible revenue stream for its schools.

Today’s action comes a day after the CTU issued a 10-day notice of intent to strike to the Chicago Board of Education, following the passage of a resolution at the Union’s Sept. 28 House of Delegates meeting. Rank-and-file CTU leadership voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday night that the Union will go on strike Tuesday, October 11, 2016, if no contract agreement is reached by then.

“Any credible Board of Education would first, be elected, but also be out there with us, demanding that the Chicago City Council pass the TIF ordinance and that banks stop running off with millions in profits,” Sharkey said. “But they remain silent, so it is up to us.”

WHO: Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey, community organizers and CTU rank- and-file members from area schools.

WHAT: Picket and press conference demanding the return of profits taken from Chicago Public Schools, the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.

WHEN: Friday, Sept. 30, 4:30 p.m.

WHERE: JP Morgan Chase Bank, 4730 W. 79th St. (79th and Cicero)

WHY: Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education is proposing continued cuts to Chicago’s classrooms, but agreeing to these cuts is allowing firms like JP Morgan Chase to continue to profit from the district’s underfunding of schools. It is time to ask the big banks, connected developers and the ultra-rich to finally pay their fair share for what they are taking from Chicago’s public schools.

CTU issues 10-day notice of intent to strike

by ctu communications  |  September 29, 2016

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today issued a 10-day notice of intent to strike to the Chicago Board of Education, following the passage of a resolution at the Union’s Sept. 28 House of Delegates meeting.  Rank-and-file CTU leadership voted overwhelmingly last night that the Union will go on strike Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, if no contract agreement is reached by then. The resolution passed by the 800-member representative body follows last week’s citywide strike vote in which, based on a 90.6 percent turnout among eligible voting members, 95.6 percent of votes cast voted in favor to strike.

For years, the city of Chicago has diverted funds from education to pay for other pet projects, which has broken the district financially and robbed schools of much-needed programs and resources. The latest contract proposal from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education is just more of the same—$100 million in layoffs and budget cuts, cuts to pensions, the loss of steps-and-lanes, increased health care costs and the continuation of a longer school day.

“Teachers already struggle to make ends meet, and go above and beyond by doing things like paying for classroom supplies out of pocket, so they sacrifice daily to protect their students and classrooms,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. “It’s time for the people who say they care about education, and who helped create these problems, to fund our schools and propose solutions which don’t hurt our kids even more.” 

The resolution passed reads as follows:

WHEREAS, the Chicago Teachers Union (“CTU”) has been negotiating with the Chicago Board of Education (“CBOE”) since November 2014 over the terms of a new labor contract and has been unable to achieve an agreement; and

WHEREAS, the CBOE has impaired the rights of CTU-represented employees by committing unfair labor practices; and

WHEREAS, CTU members have overwhelmingly voted twice to authorize the CTU to call a strike on such dates as may be determined by this House of Delegates; and

WHEREAS, CTU Constitution, Article VI Section 1, directs this House of Delegates to determine the actual date of a strike; and

WHEREAS, Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, Section 13(b)(3) requires at least 10 days have elapsed after a notice of intent to strike has been given by the CTU, before a strike can occur; therefore be it

RESOLVED that a strike shall commence on TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2016, and successive days thereafter, if no tentative agreement on a new labor contract can be achieved. The CTU shall serve the appropriate notices to effectuate that strike date.

CTU members have worked without a contract for nearly 500 days as the Board of Education has intentionally stalled labor talks and rejected all contract proposals—including those with no costs associated with them. The district’s latest round of budget cuts could lead to 300 teacher and support staff layoffs amidst failed privatization efforts and reduction in special education programs, librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides.

Negotiations continue today between the CTU and the Board of Ed.

Tonight: CTU Tele-Town Hall

by ctu communications  |  September 29, 2016

ILLUSTRATION: Tele-town hall phone

On Thursday, September 29, the CTU will hold a tele-town hall with its rank-and-file members to discuss ongoing contract negotiations and the Oct. 11 strike date. At 7 p.m., all CTU members will be automatically called via the number that CTU has on file. If you want to check or change your number visit the Member Link portal. If you have not signed in before, you will need your CTU Member ID or CPS Employee ID to register with the Member Link.

Teachers vote 95 percent to authorize strike to resolve contract dispute

by ctu communications  |  September 26, 2016

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) today released totals of its recent strike authorization vote. Now, its governing body will meet in a special session on Wednesday, Sept. 28 to determine the next steps, including whether to issue a 10-day strike notice to the Chicago Board of Education. If that happens, the first possible date for a teachers’ strike would be Oct. 11. This would be the third work stoppage by the city’s public school educators since Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office in 2011.

The Union’s Rules & Election Committee reported that on a 90.6 percent turnout, 95.6 percent of votes cast voted in favor to strike. This should come as no surprise to the Board, the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers’ aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions.

The CTU House of Delegates will meet this week to discuss the next steps in the contract fight. CTU officers and rank-and-file members will conduct a press conference at the conclusion of that session to share the results of those deliberations.

New mom explains why she voted 'yes' for a CTU strike

by erin Franzinger Barrett - Telpochcalli School  |  September 23, 2016

I live in Little Village, down the block from Telpochcalli, the spectacular small neighborhood school where I work. Our school has hosted visitors from Japan, Argentina, Egypt and around the U.S. who are interested in learning and collaborating with us in the areas of arts integration, dual language instruction, special education, and community and cultural work. Universities from around the state consistently place pre-service teachers with us because of the exceptional mentorship our staff provides.

I am voting "yes" to support a strike because when my daughter turns three, I want her to be able to walk with me and our neighbors to school every day to access these world-class opportunities that our community has built for them. If we don't strike, neighborhood schools as we know them will be destroyed by the mayor, his handpicked board of education, and the wealthy policy makers who have no real investment in our public schools.

We are striking for a contract with decent working and learning conditions, for a system that values and prioritizes the needs and lives of our communities, and to create a more just world for ourselves and the people we love. The corporate media may continue to portray us as greedy teachers, but as Chicago Teachers Union members, residents of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools graduates and parents, we know the sacrifices we've made, and we know that the only way to win the equitable, bright future that our daughter and all of Chicago's children deserve is through collective action and struggle.

ILLUSTRATION: Erin and Xiobhan Rocio


VP Sharkey on the democracy behind week's strike re-authorization vote

by jesse sharkey - ctu vice president  |  September 22, 2016

The Chicago Tribune is comparing our strike vote to some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world. What I find enraging here is that the Chicago Teachers Union is held to a ridiculously high standard for voting on a strike. (75% of entire membership must vote in affirmative.) Think about that—an 80% yes vote on an 80% turnout would still fail. But the CTU is not credited for meeting a democratic standard which virtually no elected official could meet. We are condemned.

The appointed Chicago Board of Ed is not compared to North Korea and castigated for stalling negotiations for 22 months while its unelected members slash public school budgets. So the Tribune's attack on our vote-by-petition reveals how deeply they despise our power and voice.

Why vote by petition? We are voting by petition because our original vote in December 2015 is being challenged by the Illinois governor’s appointed labor relations board and the CTU's elected executive board and House of Delegates voted to approve this procedure. We also want to ensure our members talk to the newly hired teachers in their buildings.

Our original vote took over a month to plan and was held on three successive days. It required printing three sets of ballots, ballot envelopes, ballot boxes, ballot seals and voter lists, and delivering and picking up the materials from 550 worksites by courier on three different occasions. The entire procedure cost well over $100,000 and literally thousands of hours of volunteer time on the part of hundreds of rank-and-file CTU members.

When we started considering a re-authorization vote just weeks into the school year, we considered that unions typically hold strike votes in members-only meetings and take a standing vote on the spot. It's not that the voting is public—votes are shared with neither the boss nor with non-members —but the matter is discussed among union members in the workplace. This is a reasonable way to approach the decision about a strike, and one that the union movement has used for over 100 years.

Our members-only voting requires that we talk to each other, respect each other’s opinions at work and make important decisions as a group.

Consider how much work it requires to maintain the level of participatory democracy the CTU exhibits. Elected officers work at the union office and receive the most media attention but consider this: An elected executive board steers the organization while working full-time in schools, 800 elected delegates conduct union meetings, meet regularly as our House of Delegates and are the face of the union in more than 500 schools, and thousands of members participate in CTU events, read, argue, stay informed, and will ultimately authorize or not authorize a strike, and approve or reject a contract.

Not only do I think the CTU is most democratic union in the country, I think it’s the most democratic institution in the city of Chicago. It's possible that the Tribune attacks the CTU because they do not understand what we really do, which is a bit pitiful considering how much time they spend fulminating about us. But I suspect the real reason the Tribune voices disdain for our workplace democracy is precisely because it is the type of democracy that leads to a more active and combative union, and that is what they truly fear and despise.

Strike authorization vote in second-day; teachers decry 20 percent reduction in school supports amidst high crime

by ctu communications  |  September 22, 2016

CHICAGO—Chicago public school teachers, clinicians and paraprofessionals entered the second day of their voting for strike re-authorization by calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked Chicago Board of Education to stop eliminating nurses, social workers, counselors and psychologists, leaving students impacted by violence and poverty without equitable access to crisis intervention in their schools.

Since 2013, social workers have plummeted from 378 to 309, a decline of 18 percent, according to Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) research. However, the number of district students per social worker has increased by 13 percent, from 861 to 971 students per social worker. However, like other clinicians, social workers also service students across many CPS charter schools, spreading insufficient resources even thinner. 

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has steadily cut the number of certified school nurses as the district turns to outsourcing clinician services. There are now just over 160 certified school nurses, down from over 200 in 2013—a 20 percent decline. The ratio of students to nurses has increased over this time period by 15 percent—from over 1,600 to 1,850 students per nurse.

“Our clinicians provide a vital service to our students, and to cut them at a time when the city is under siege by gun violence, violent crime, poverty and cuts to social service programs is poor judgment,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. “Psychologists, social workers and counselors help students cope with problems brought on by family stress, neighborhood violence, unemployment, low-paying jobs and a variety of other issues associated with life in poverty.”

“One logical step the mayor could take is to ensure that all students have equitable and appropriate access to the services they need,” Sharkey added.

CPS changed its budgeting formula, decreasing the number of school counselors available at many of its large elementary and high schools. Schools have lost over 130 counselors since 2013, from nearly 800 down to 685. Counseling services also suffer because the district fails to provide enough resources for special education services, resulting in school counselors doing double duty as special education case managers. Last year, over 60 percent of elementary school counselors were also tasked with case manager duties.

Educators say these troubling statistics underscore why so many are fed up with the district’s mishandling of city schools and are considering a third strike since 2012. CTU members engaged in a one-day unfair labor practice strike on April 1, and say if they are forced to withhold their labor again, a potential fall strike could be much longer.

Results of the re-authorization vote will be announced next week after the Union has informed its rank-and-file members and school leaders of the results.  The last day of voting in schools is Friday, Sept. 23.

Message from CTU President Karen Lewis on this week's strike vote

by Karen Lewis - CTU President  |  September 21, 2016

We cannot let the mayor and his CPS CEO continue to make terrible cuts to PSRPs, classroom teachers and special education while slashing after school programs, libraries, counselors and school nurses. Our ability to strike is our most powerful weapon to demand justice for ourselves and our students, so it is imperative that you vote "yes" for strike re-authorization this week.

After we went on strike in 2012, the Board of Ed restored contract language regarding class size; left our steps and lanes intact; backed off increasing health care costs; gave us the ability to grieve evaluations and discipline; implemented a short-term disability system (which gave maternity and paternity benefits to our members for the first time); and stepped back from its proposal to eliminate rights for laid off teachers. Again, we must make our power felt to compel the mayor to take our demands seriously.

We sacrifice—and will continue to sacrifice—for our students and classrooms. In addition to this, however, the district has taken pension holidays costing us more than $2 billion; rescinded a 4 percent salary increase in 2012; closed 50 schools in 2013; and mandated three furlough days last year. Enough is enough. We are not asking for exorbitant raises. We are asking that the mayor and his handpicked Board of Ed properly fund our classrooms with the hundreds of millions available via progressive revenue sources such as the city’s TIF surplus, a corporate head tax and/or taxes on LaSalle Street commodities traders.

This week's vote is to reinforce the democratic sentiment your union made last December when members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. We know that the mayor and the governor will attempt to take away our power through their appointed labor relations board. This is a vote to protect our rights and prepare our buildings for a possible strike. If we remain unified, we will have more power to push our elected and appointed officials to treat us with dignity and respect.

This week, vote "yes" to protect your students, your classrooms and your profession.

In solidarity,
ILLUSTRATION: strike vote letter
Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT
President, Chicago Teachers Union

Strike re-authorization voting Sept. 21-23

by ctu communications  |  September 20, 2016

Schools are being asked to complete strike authorization voting by end of day, Wednesday, Sept. 21, if possible. Any schools that do not have 100 percent of staff voting on Wednesday can run the vote on Thursday, Sept. 22, and if necessary, continue to run the vote on Friday, Sept. 23.

Members who are citywide, clinicians or based at network offices may vote at any school or at the Chicago Teachers Union office, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza #400, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The preferred time to vote will be Wednesday, Sept. 21 before school. Members must provide proof of union membership, such as a CTU card or a pay stub showing CTU dues deduction.

Citywide members who received a yellow voting ticket should present that when they vote. Citywide members who did not receive a yellow voting ticket should bring their CTU card or a pay stub showing CTU dues deductions to vote. Chicago Public Schools employees who are new to the CTU bargaining unit will be allowed to vote after completely filling out a union card and submitting the CTU membership form.

Members may also vote at any of the 11 voting drop-off locations below. These are designated spots where delegates will be leaving voting materials. CTU staff will be collecting these materials and members will be able to vote at these locations when providing proof of union membership. The dates and times for these drop-offs are Wednesday Sept. 21, Thursday, Sept. 22 and Friday Sept. 23, from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Look for a CTU-marked car in the school parking lot.

Drop-off Locations and Addresses (UPDATED)

Simeon 8147 S. Vincennes Ave. Staff parking near 83rd & Vincennes
Bogan 3939 W. 79th St. Staff parking lot entrance off Springfield
Taft 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Staff parking lot on east side of building off Northcott Ave.
Hyde Park 6220 S. Stony Island Ave. Staff parking lot
Lane Tech 2501 W. Addison St. Staff parking lot
Mather 5835 N. Lincoln Ave. Staff parking lot
Juarez 2150 S. Laflin St. Staff parking lot
Julian 10330 S. Elizabeth St. Staff parking lot
Washington 3535 E. 114th St. Staff parking lot
Westinghouse 3223 W. Franklin Blvd. Front of building
Chicago Teachers Union 222 Merchandise Part Plaza Near west side Mart entrance on N. Franklin-Orleans
Chicago Teachers Union