Ahead of Wednesday's strike authorization vote, Chicago Teachers Union leaders headed back to school.
CTU President Karen Lewis, Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Recording Secretary Michael Brunson visited several neighborhood schools Tuesday to answer questions from teachers as they prepare for the vote.
"I'll tell you, the mood is positive. People are anxious to get a contract. They think the board's offers are unreasonable right now, and they want to send a message with a 'Yes' vote to the board that it's time to start bargaining seriously," said Sharkey.
Voting takes place before and after school across Chicago on Wednesday and will last until there is a "clear result," Lewis said in a statement.
State law requires 75 percent of union members to vote favorably for a strike in order to authorize any work stoppage if authorization is approved.
Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard urged teachers to hold off voting until after the return of an independent review board's report.
"Any move towards a strike at the time will only hurt our kids and school communities, and teachers will not have the information they need to make an informed decision to authorize a strike," he said in a statement Tuesday.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel echoed Brizard's sentiments at an unrelated press event.
"Teachers deserve a pay raise. We'll work toward that. And the kids do not deserve a strike. And I think if everybody's time and energy is focused on working with the independent, third-party negotiator, the arbitrator, we will find that common ground to achieve both objectives," he said.
But the CTU maintains that the report won't arrive until after teachers start summer break. They call the timing unfair and want a pre-summer vote.
"We are tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed by the district and by the City of Chicago," Lewis said last week.
Both sides are still far apart on issues related to teacher pay and instructional hours. The CTU said it needs the leverage of a strike authorization vote to get its contract talks moving.
"We'd like to get this process moving and we think that the bargaining will be more fruitful through the summer and we'll have a better chance of getting resolve for the fall if we start bargaining now," said Sharkey.
CTU leaders said they will vote Wednesday in the schools where they taught. For Lewis that means King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel Blvd., where voting begins at 6:30 a.m.