The Chicago Teachers Union has rejected a contract offer recommended by a third-party arbitrator, the union's leaders said Monday - starting a countdown clock to a possible teachers strike.
A report on Chicago Public Schools from independent fact-finder and labor expert Steven Bierig, who was appointed jointly by CPS and CTU, was made public Monday morning, nearly two months after CPS teachers' previous contract ended.
Bierig was tasked with assessing a list of 21 disputed issues including teacher salaries, prep time, paid time off, evaluation, class sizes, health care, school closings and more as part of the district and union's contract negotiations.
The report recommended a five-year contract includes a 16% raise, equaling about $351 million, for teachers - an increase from what the district offered in its most recent proposal, CPS said.
"The average teacher would see their salary rise over 24 percent and a second-year teacher would see their salary rise from a little more than $53K in 2019 to over $72K in the final year of the agreement, which is equivalent to a 35 percent pay raise," the district said in a statement on the contract proposal, which it said it accepted and offered to CTU.
But CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a news conference Monday morning that the union's leadership had formally the fact-finder's recommended proposal, setting in motion a 30-day countdown clock, at the end of which the CTU can legally strike.
Sharkey said the report did not address "a number of key concerns" like class size and staffing issues, and that the city's CPS budget cuts funding to more than 200 schools across the city.
"What our contract represents is a legally enforceable promise in writing that conditions in our classrooms are going to improve," Sharkey said, adding, "That's what we need to see in order to reach a settlement with Chicago Public Schools and until that happens, the CTU is going to continue to reject the fact-finder's report and is going to continue to insist that we see real improvements."
"Until we see that, we're going to continue organizing for what we deserve. We're going to continue going out and speaking for our members and this union is going to continue preparing for a strike if need be, in order to deliver those improvements for our members and the people who rely on public schools in the city of Chicago," Sharkey continued.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the district accepted Bierig's recommendations, increasing its most recent contract offer.
"This would represent the largest and most robust salary and benefit package in CTU history," Lightfoot continued. "Under this offer, the average teacher will see their salary rise by 24%."
"There’s no reason that there should be a strike," she continued. "We have 30 days to get this done, but we could get this done today. We put a very robust offer on the table, accepted the fact-finders, and built into our budget, all the things they said that they wanted."
You can read the full report here.