Surrounded by Chicago teachers, Karen Lewis responded to the city's demand that teachers pay 7 percent more towards their pension payments — with some fighting words.
“To take a 7 percent pay cut is strike worthy – yes," Lewis challenged during a Friday afternoon press conference.
The teachers union says it was close to a new one year deal, but that all changed this week due to what Lewis said was Mayor Emanuel’s new team that just took over at Chicago Public Schools.
For a teacher making $55,000 a year, the city’s recent proposal means a $4,000 pay cut.
Lewis met privately with Mayor Rahm Emanuel Sunday, and the union thought they were close to a one-year contract – with no pay hikes – but not anymore. Now CTU is blaming new CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.
“Sherriff Claypool has decided just blow things up and show how tough he can be,” Lewis said.
A recent letter from CPS to the teachers union noted a disagreement over the pension payment – and if layoffs take place – CPS wants to make those layoffs by teacher evaluation, not seniority.
“We're not asking more from the teachers,” Claypool said Wednesday. “We're asking to preserve the teacher evaluation system that was negotiated four years ago.”
Claypool is pushing for Springfield's help for a bailout, but Governor Rauner has said no to special deals for Chicago only.
“What he's doing is campaigning still,” Lewis said. “He still hasn't governed.”
It was three years ago that Chicago teachers walked off the job in mid-September. This time, if there is a strike, it won't happen for several months.
First the CTU is asking for a mediator, something CPS has yet to agree to, according to the union’s attorney Robert Bloch.
“Following mediation is a fact-finding process with recommendations of a fact finder, a cooling off period,” Bloch said. “Then the union would have the right to strike, if its members authorize one.”