The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) set a date to go on strike as it seeks a new contract with the Chicago Board of Education, and because that date coincides with a planned work stoppage by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, it could mean that 35,000 city employees will not be working, most of them employees of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
The CTU announced it will strike on Oct. 17 if no deal is reached. About 25,000 CTU members would be on the picket lines, along with about 10,000 SEIU Local 73 members, which include CPS classroom assistants, custodians and security officers as well as Chicago Park District employees.
CTU members said they want better resources for their classrooms. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her proposal includes a 16-percent raise for teachers over five years, but in a statement, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said teaching assistants need higher salaries.
He said their salary of about $30,000 a year isn’t enough.
“If you don’t raise the wage floor in a meaningful way, this ‘offer’ means nothing,” Sharkey said. “These workers, who are overwhelmingly black and Latin-x women, work full time and yet would continue to be forced to live in poverty. We want wages that lift these workers out of poverty—and we’re nowhere near that.”
The two sides have gone back and forth for several weeks. In a joint statement, Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson defended their proposal.
“The teachers and support staff who serve in our district have been essential to the rise of Chicago Public Schools as a national leader in education, and we are committed to honoring and supporting their service by offering the most comprehensive and significant contract proposal in district history, proposing steps to address classroom overcrowding and committing to hire hundreds of additional nurses, social workers and case managers,” they said. “We all must continue to work to create a safe and nurturing environment for our children.”
In 2012, the CTU went on strike and almost did again in October 2016 before officials reached a late-night deal.
SEIC Local 73 members are also demanding better wages, and 7,000 of its members work in CPS, with another 2,500 in the Chicago Park District.
In a statement, SEIU Local 73 President Dian Palmer said park employees in the city are struggling to make ends meet.
“They can’t even enjoy the parks they work at when they’re forced to live in poverty,” Palmer said. “We expect the Chicago Park District and Mayor Lori Lightfoot to return to the negotiating table with the serious intent of offering park workers the world-class contract they deserve.”
The potential strike raised questions about the resources CPS students will have available if school is not in session, but when CTU leaders announced the strike date, CPS officials said school buildings will be open during their normal schedules, with principals and non-union support staff being on site. Students, CPS officials said, are welcome at any school “that is appropriate for their age.”
Schools will serve breakfast and lunch to students, but after-school activities, including sports, tutoring and local school council meetings, will be canceled.
Charter and contract schools will continue to operate on normal schedules, and Chicago Public Libraries, selected parks, Safe Haven sites and other community partner locations will be open.
In an online statement, Chicago Park District Supt./CEO Michael Kelly, of Morgan Park, said a strike will impact park hours, program schedules, landscape maintenance and waste removal.
He said park district officials are “very disappointed” with the strike decision and are “working diligently” to reach a deal.
“Be assured that the Chicago Park District is committed to utilizing its best efforts to negotiate a resolution of this issue,” Kelly said, “one that is responsive to the needs of the patrons we serve, our employees and taxpayers.”
With the strike looming, the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St., will offer programs for students, as it has during similar situations in the past.
The camps will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $42 per day for non-BAC members and $38 for members, and scholarships are available. Pre-camp care, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., is available for $6 per day, and after care, from 4 to 6 p.m., is $12 per day.
For more information, call the BAC at (773) 445-3838 or visit the website at beverlyartcenter.org.
For more information on the CPS contingency plan, visit the website at cps.edu.