Chicago Teachers Hit Picket Lines for 1-Day Strike

The teachers are calling the strike a "day of action," while CPS leaders call it a wildcat strike and are promising legal action

Nearly 340,000 students missed class Friday as the Chicago Teachers Union staged a one-day strike to protest education cuts and inadequate state funding.

Marking two Fridays in a row students will not be in school, teachers picketed outside several schools in the city in the morning hours before descending on the city's Loop with massive crowds outside the Thompson Center during rush hour. 

Teachers had planned hit the picket lines protesting at every CPS school in the city Friday. Those who showed up to schools to work faced possibly being kicked out of the union. Chicago police confirmed three arrests at Monroe and Lake Shore Drive. 

The teachers called the one-day strike a "day of action," while CPS leaders called it a "wildcat" illegal strike. The district has filed a labor complaint to prevent similar strikes in the future and asked teachers to repay the cost of the strike.

Gov. Bruce Rauner said the strike was a "raw display of political power."

"Walking out on kids in the classroom, leaving parents in the lurch and thumbing their nose at taxpayers -- it's the height of arrogance from those we’ve entrusted with our children’s futures," he said in a statement. "By breaking the law in Chicago and forcing passage of a bad law in Springfield, powerful bosses are proving they have an unfair advantage over Illinois families."

Still, Lewis maintained the group is calling for progressive revenue solutions.

"Teachers are about solutions," she said. "And we are united with people across the city and state to fight for them."

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool noted Friday was virtually a "drama-free day" and said the district looks forward to welcoming teachers back Monday. 

CTU president Karen Lewis said the strike was necessary because schools are at a crisis point that demands action now. She walked the picket line at King College Prep High School and Beasley Elementary on the city’s South Side where she told reporters the protests seemed to be "going really well."

"We're at a crisis point so we either do something now or it's going to be worse later," Lewis said.

For the teachers who didn't go to work, but also didn't join in the protests Friday, Lewis said "that's OK."

"That tells me they're tired," she said. "It's been a long year."

The teachers aren't alone in their protests, several others groups will demonstrate fighting for their own labor rights. Among them are striking fast food workers, who want the minimum wage raised.

To help CPS students during the strike, Chicago Transit Authority offered free rides to 250 contingency sites. The designated locations included schools, parks and libraries. Students wanting a free bus or train ride need to show their CPS ID card or reduced fare card to the operator. The offer runs from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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