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CTU President: We Can't Agree On Anything With CPS. Prepare For A Strike

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 10, 2012 8:35PM

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. (Image via
If you thought the agreement between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union on a longer school day was the beginning of a better spirit of cooperation between the two groups on a new labor agreement, think again. Negotiations between CPS and CTU are at such a sorry state that Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said if they can’t come to an agreement soon the rank-and-file should expect to form picket lines in September.

Lewis said progress in negotiations has been slow but that CTU continues to come to the bargaining table in good faith. Lewis’s remarks run counter to those of CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, who said the two sides were “making decent progress and I’m still hopeful and optimistic.’’

In a statement released to media, CTU laid out their concerns.

”Public school educators also remain concerned about the District’s refusal to provide adequate wrap-around services for students severely impacted by poverty and violence in addition to threats of ballooning class sizes. Teachers are concerned about the new evaluation process of which 40 percent of the review is based on how students perform on standardized tests. Job security, health benefits and teacher pay have not been resolved.”

The earliest CTU can call a strike, as mandated by state law is next Friday, Aug. 17. CTU’s rank-and-file overwhelmingly voted for a strike authorization in June and has used that vote to make some gains in negotiations with CPS. But the statement to media recognizes that could change if they actually do go on strike for the first time in 25 years. The statement served as a reminder they only hope to use the strike as a last resort.

”We recognize strikes are not popular. However, they are the strongest tool public workers have in ensuring their rights are not trampled upon and working conditions are fair and equitable. The CTU is fighting for strong, well-resourced neighborhood schools where students, regardless of their zip code, will have equal access to a high quality education.”

Lewis said there’s no chance a new contract will be agreed upon by Monday, when classes for Track E schools begin.