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Chicago Public School Teachers Could Strike Next Month, Union Says

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Mar 1, 2016 4:28PM

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union says it could begin a teachers' strike as early as April 1 if Chicago Public Schools pulls the 7 percent pension pick-up it has been funding for the city's teachers for years.

The teachers union and CPS have been locked in contract negotiations that soured last month, partly because the public schools system is threatening to stop paying for part of teachers' pensions. The teachers union overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike—the first step needed to strike—last December if CPS did not meet the union's contract demands. And in a move that union officials said came as a surprise, CPS announced layoffs of 62 employees Monday, including 17 teachers.

Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey told reporters the strike could come in the next month hours after the CPS layoff notices. Sharkey also said that CPS has given the teachers a 30-day warning before they stop making teachers' pension contributions—a move that would amount to a pay cut for all union teachers.

“The board claims they’ve got a right to do that. We’re sure they’re wrong,” Sharkey told the Sun-Times. “If they actually go through with it, you can expect our labor to prepare for an unfair labor practice strike on April 1.”

With budget talks in Springfield at a 9-month standstill and CPS facing a large budget deficit, schools officials say they have been forced to make these cuts. The teachers union has maintained that the district has other options, including seeking outside funding.

The teachers union last held a strike in 2012. It was the first CPS teachers strike in about 25 years.