The Chicago Teachers Union will hold a second strike vote in late September after its House of Delegates voted unanimously to OK the vote Wednesday night.
"A strike can be averted, and CPS will work tirelessly to make sure children’s education and progress is not interrupted," Emily Bittner, communications director for Chicago Public Schools said in a statement after the vote. "CPS teachers do great work – especially propelling the Chicago students’ remarkable academic gains – and we want to give them a fair raise that works within our budget constraints."
CTU President Karen Lewis, Vice President Jesse Sharkey discussed the next steps in the union’s ongoing contract battle with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Board of Education. Among other things, the CTU is upset about CPS’ plan to phase in a 7 percent pension payment for teachers. That payment was previously covered by the city.
“If they don’t come up off the pension pick-up, we have been very clear about what we’re going to do about that,” Lewis told NBC 5 on Tuesday. “We are going to strike.”
The CTU claims the Chicago Board of Education has rejected nearly all of the union’s contract proposals after working all of last year without a contract.
“The CTU is insulted by the Board of Education’s demands, and maintains that the city of Chicago has created a $1.5 billion fiscal crisis in order to justify its ongoing neglect and failure to address critical needs of students,” a CTU release announcing the event read.
According to the release, Lewis has called CPS "broke on purpose” and accused the mayor of “lying in wait” to raise property taxes and implement other taxes on vital services. If the union decides to strike, it will be the second teachers strike that Emanuel has faced since taking office in 2011.
Meanwhile, the mayor visited the Brunson Math & Science Elementary School Wednesday and addressed the ongoing CTU negotiations.
“Over the life of the contract there’s a 13 percent pay raise and also the security of a teachers pension and my sense is I want our teachers, our parents, our students' focus in the classroom,” Emanuel said. “And I want our collective focus to be at the negotiating table which will happen this afternoon.”
Teachers overwhelmingly approved a strike during the union's last vote in December, although a new vote will likely take place. The union is discussing a potential strike in mid-October, or sooner, according to sources close to the decision. However, the union has postponed setting an official date. Perhaps there will be some clarification at Wednesday's press conference.
Nevertheless, parents of CPS students have expressed concern about a potential strike that could disrupt the school year.
"I really hope they don't go on strike," parent Chaka Richardson told NBC 5. "They really need their education."