Timeline: When Chicago Teachers May Announce a Potential Strike

It's down to the wire for Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, with less than two days remaining before a potential strike.

When will the city know if teachers plan to hit the picket lines? And what has to happen before then? In short, not until Wednesday at the earliest - and still quite a bit.

Both sides continued bargaining Tuesday, having already met more than 50 times throughout the course of contract negotiations thus far.

An emergency meeting of CTU's House of Delegates - which consists of one representative from each school - has been scheduled for Wednesday. The meeting will take place after school hours, though the exact timing has yet to be determined, at CTU's headquarters.

There, the bargaining team will present an update on where negotiations stand, and with the House of Delegates' counsel, decide if the two sides have reached an acceptable agreement, or if the union should strike.

On Aug. 26, CTU rejected a contract offer recommended by a third-party arbitrator, setting in motion a 30-day countdown clock, at the end of which the CTU would be legally allowed to strike.

Then on Sept. 26, union's rank-and-file members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 94 percent of ballots cast in favor of striking. Days later, union leaders announced that the strike would begin on Oct. 17 if a deal cannot be reached.

Because rank-and-file members have already approved a strike, the next time they would be called to vote would not be on whether or not to hit the picket lines - only on provisions of a potential contract, known as a tentative agreement, should the union's bargaining team reach a deal with the district that CTU leadership finds acceptable to bring before the entire union for a vote.

On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CTU's leadership both acknowledged progress made but gave little indication as to whether or not an agreement could be reached in time to avert a strike. Both sides remain at odds over issues like class sizes, staffing shortages and security of students in areas surrounding schools.

Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement after bargaining sessions on Monday that the district's team had "expressed a willingness to find solutions" on the union's framework for staffing and class sizes "that would be written directly into the contract."

"Unfortunately, no measurable progress was made on any other issue today," their statement continued, concluding, "We remain committed to getting a deal done, as our teachers, students and families deserve no less."

For their part, CTU said in a statement that "educators and frontline staff have no written tentative agreement yet that addresses critical staffing shortages, exploding class sizes and desperately needed resources in the city's public schools," adding that the bargaining team would return to negotiations Tuesday "as the clock continues to tick on reaching a final tentative agreement in time to give rank and file members an opportunity to review and accept or reject" it.

"The board is talking to us now about class size and staffing. We still don't have their ideas actually written down on paper," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a news conference Monday evening.

"These ideas are coming to us across the table but aren't yet written down and we're getting late, the hour's getting late," Sharkey continued, adding, "The process is getting toward the point where we're gonna have to summarize what's happened and communicate to our members in schools so they can vote. Teachers need to see the written proposals and make a decision on this Wednesday."

News of a potential agreement could surface at any point ahead of the House of Delegates meeting Wednesday, with negotiations likely continuing into the very last moments ahead of a potential strike.

Not among the key issues still up for debate is salary - with CPS' contract offer including a 16% raise, which would put the average teacher salary at nearly $100,000 within the next five years. CTU officials said the potential strike is about more than just money - they have said they want promises made by then-candidate Lightfoot when she was running to be put into writing.

If no agreement is reached, more than 25,000 teachers and staff are scheduled to strike beginning Thursday morning at 12 a.m., hitting the picket lines in the nation's third-largest school district.

Two chapters of the Service Employees International Union, representing 10,000 support staff members and Chicago Park District employees, have set a strike date of Oct. 17 as well. 

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