Chicago Teachers Union Members Vote on Potential Strike Authorization

Will the Chicago Teachers Union authorize a strike? The votes continue to be counted through Thursday, the earliest teachers and schools could find out the results.

Rank-and-file members have been casting their ballots in a strike authorization vote beginning Tuesday, according to the union. Per state law, if the vote passes with more than 75%, the union can strike - with a walk-out happening as early as Oct. 7. In 2012, nearly 90% of teachers voted to strike - the first in Chicago in more than 20 years.

The Chicago Sun-Times published an editorial Thursday urging teachers to take the deal for its offer of a 16% raise over five years. But the union says this is about more than money.

As strike authorization vote ballots were being counted Wednesday, union leaders said they want promises made by then-candidate and now-Mayor Lori Lightfoot in writing, like more social workers, school nurses and librarians, as well as maximum class sizes.

"We’re going to stay at the table," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday. "We’re committed to working hard to bargaining in good faith and trying to reach in agreement, but what we’re really looking for is a change in attitude and a change in seriousness on the part of the mayor’s bargaining team.”

As to where the negotiations stand, both Lightfoot and Sharkey addressed the situation Friday.

"What I have said to President Sharkey is I stand committed to throw as many resources as possible at the negotiating process," Lightfoot said at an unrelated news conference.

"We should be negotiating every single day. We should be negotiating multiple times a day. A deal is within our reach but we need partners on the other side of the table."

Lightfoot said that the deal most recently offered by the district would put CPS "at one of the top paid teachers unions in the country, not just in Illinois," adding that the city needed the union to respond.

Sharkey took issue with Lightfoot's rhetoric Friday, holding a news conference to respond to her remarks.

"The mayor said that she is frustrated by the slow pace of negotiations - so are we," Sharkey said. "We've been frustrated for years about the poor conditions in our schools. We are asking the table for the mayor to make good on her campaign promises and to make provisions in our contract which improve the conditions in our schools."

Sharkey said the union was asking for improvements on areas related to class size, staffing shortages, and provisions related to safety and security of students in areas surrounding their schools.

"Those things are not too much to ask. The resources are there; the political climate is there to achieve those demands at the table," Sharkey said. "So far, the lack of progress is not about the insufficient resources at the bargaining table. We stand committed to bargain as much as it requires to get a deal."

"It's not about resources at the bargaining table," he reiterated. "This is about resources that go into the schools."

In addition to counting ballots Thursday, the union said they have four hours of negotiations scheduled, and they’re also set to meet all day on Friday.

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