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Chicago Teachers Have Chosen A Strike Date. Will It Actually Happen?

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 29, 2016 4:11PM

Photo: Aaron Cynic

Just two days after announcing that most Chicago Teachers Union members had voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike authorization, the union on Wednesday evening set a strike date: Oct. 11. As Mayor Rahm Emanuel faces down the possibility of the second teachers strike and third stoppage of his tenure, here are some issues to keep in mind.

Why October 11?
CTU must give 10 days notice before a stoppage, so Oct. 11 would be the earliest date for a strike to begin. As WBEZ notes, the date could also be strategically aligned with a Finance Committee meeting, scheduled for Oct. 12, in which aldermen consider whether or not to allocate TIF funds to schools. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey has said that an ordinance to direct TIF surpluses toward schools would add $150 million in revenue to the budget, Progress Illinois reports.

Is the strike a certainty?
Not strictly speaking. Negotiations are still ongoing between CTU President Karen Lewis and Emanuel, and teachers also have the option of forgoing a strike if talks are making headway.

No, really, will it happen?
In one sense, it may seem probable. The Tribune reported that when whether teachers and the administration were close, Lewis said “ I don’t even know what “close” means anymore.” But as WBEZ noted, neither side appears to be entirely sure how firmly entrenched the other is.

What exactly do teachers want?
A significant stumbling block remains the fact that teachers have been working without a contract for over a year, since 2015. Furthermore, CTU claims that the most recent contract proposal from CPS amounts to a pay cut for some teachers, as teachers would pay more into pensions and insurance while the so-called “steps and lanes” pay increases offered by CPS would only affect one-third of educators.

It could all rest on how much—if any—the mayor and City Council open up the TIF funds for CPS, which of course is dealing with a financial morass of its own. We'll all find out whether that happens within the next 10-plus days.