The Chicago Teachers Union has filed a lawsuit against Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school board for “using our children as a political football,” according to CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.
The unfair labor practice suit says the Board of Education coerced CTU-represented teachers to waive their labor rights and vote in favor of lengthening the school day by 90 minutes.
It also alleges CPS threatened to close schools if teachers didn't approve contract modifications and interrogated teachers about their Union activities.
“Asking our members to void parts of their own contract it is unethical and illegal,” said CTU President Karen Lewis in a statement. "We’ve asked [the board] over and over to work with us not against us.”
Four schools so far have agreed to a longer day, an initiative Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have publicly lauded for months. But others are saying no.
Stagg Elementary School reportedly voted 24-to-1 against the longer day, according to the union. The CTU says the principal was asked by the board to have the teachers to retake the vote, but the principal said no.
The union also said the principal at Pulaski International School asked teachers to add 45 minutes to their day. “What’s another 45 minutes,” the faculty was reportedly told.
The union delegate there “fears [the principal] is going to approach teachers one-by-one to pressure them into asking for the waiver vote,” Gadlin said.
Emanuel this week announced incentives for schools that vote in favor of the extra 90 minutes. But the CTU wants the school board to slow down and properly plan for what those additional minutes mean for students.
"Our concern is about quality not quantity," the union said in a statement Thursday. "We do not want our teachers and paraprofessionals coerced and bullied into signing away their contractual rights in order to get the resources they sorely need."
The City Council on Thursday called the union the bully, saying it's keeping schools from approving a measure that could improve test scores and help kids.
"Send a message to the union," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), one of many aldermen who stood in support of the longer day. "The union is holding them back [with] scare tactics."
Still, Ald. Scott Waugespack (32nd) said "teachers should get paid." And Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) wants to ensure the extra minutes be filled with instruction.
Former schools chief Arne Duncan, who approves of the longer day, will chime in Friday during a panel discussion with local leaders at Carl Schurz High School.