Teachers and support staff from five different charter schools, as well as clerical and staff members at Chicago City Colleges could begin a strike on May 1st.
Charter school educators and staff, represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, announced the strike date at a press conference and rally Thursday alongside City Colleges workers, who are represented by the Federation of College Clerical and Technical Personnel (IFT Local 1708).
“As teachers, our charge in society is to unlock the human potential of the next generation of our society and our youth, and we take that job very seriously,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey outside Arturo Velazquez Westside Technical Institute. “But we cannot do that job if there are no resources for our classrooms, no supports for our students, or no dignity for educators. If we have to strike to improve learning conditions for our students and wages and working conditions for our educators, we will be on the picket lines in a week.”
At least 134 educators represented by the CTU from the Chicago High School for the Arts, Latino Youth High School, Youth Connection Leadership Academy, and two Instituto del Progreso Latino schools could hit the picket line on May 1st. According to the union, 97 percent of voting members at the five schools who educate nearly 1,800 students voted to authorize the strike. The CTU says educators at the schools suffer from “chronic under-resourcing, poor working conditions and low wages.” The union says charter school educators sometimes can make up to 40 percent less than comparable workers at Chicago Public Schools, and working conditions cause high turnover rates.
“We have an obligation to raise the question of what’s right, not just for ourselves as workers, but for the entire working class in the city of Chicago—because that’s who sends their kids to public schools” said Sharkey. “We’re going to do what’s right—we’re going to demand resources for our schools, decent teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms, we’re going to bargain hard—and if we can’t get what’s right at the bargaining table, we’re going to take our fight for justice to the picket line.”
City College workers could also strike on May 1st if an agreement with the CCC administration. According to IFT Local 1708, they’ve been working without a contract for three years and are calling for “fairness, a livable wage, and the respect they deserve.”
“We need to be paid a living wage,” said Delores Withers, FCCTP president, at the rally. “Sixty-six percent of our part-time employees – the majority who are black and brown women – earn less than Chicago’s minimum wage. They can’t afford health insurance or even take a sick day because they can’t miss a day of pay. It’s just morally wrong, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
The CTU says the number of educators at charter operators could grow before the strike date to as many as ten schools. Should the educators strike, it would be the third charter strike in Chicago this school year, and would be the first multi-employer charter strike in history.