Eight weeks before their current contract expires, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union sounded hopeful Wednesday that a repeat of the district's first strike in 25 years could be avoided.
"I don't think it'll be ugly. I don't think they really want to fight with us," Karen Lewis told NBC Chicago following a rally with union delegates. "But if they do, we're ready."
The "they" is the Chicago Board of Education, which a day earlier was reported to have asked teachers, social workers and other union members to take a 7 percent pay cut in the upcoming contract.
Lewis said there's no way union members would accept that deal and argued that CPS is "broke on purpose" in an effort to cut pay and pension benefit promises previously made.
The nation's third-largest school district is facing a more than $1 billion budget gap.
"It is bordering on bankruptcy, which you can liken the Board of Ed to right now," Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th) said earlier in the day. "When that happens, those people that run those companies look for concessions from their workforce to try and keep their doors open."
Gov. Bruce Rauner said he likens unions to special interest groups who "should not dictate terms."
"Those groups should not decide what is done and what isn't done," he said following his appearance before Chicago's City Council. "The schools don't belong to them. They belong to the families, the parents and the taxpayers."
Chicago Public Schools' interim CEO Jesse Ruiz said "we look forward to continuing our conversations on a new contract ... and reforming a broken system."