Chicago teachers and support staff will both hit picket lines beginning Thursday morning after negotiations failed between officials and union representatives.
“We want this to be a short strike with an agreement that will benefit our schools and our teachers. We have a ways to go,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey at a Wednesday evening press conference. “We actually want to see improvement on all the issues we are talking about here.”
Conditions in Chicago Public Schools are at the heart of the issue, the union has said. The CTU wants smaller class sizes, better staffing, more resources, increased class preparation and professional development, as well as a pay increase for school employees. Illinois law mostly bans the union from solely striking over issues outside of pay, but the union and CPS can negotiate those terms during bargaining.
Sharkey told reporters at the press conference the union has been waiting for a comprehensive set of proposals for months.
“We waited patiently for the schools to start negotiating with us and they took a pass on that for months. Then a new mayor got elected and still we waited months. As late as July we only got the board’s first comprehensive set of proposals. It’s simply not true that we’re not willing to talk about these things. We want to talk about these issues because we want solutions. We don’t want to be out of our schools tomorrow but sometimes you have to take a hard step in order to get what’s right.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has argued the City can’t afford all of the unions demands.
“CTU hasn’t gotten the message,” said Lightfoot, according to CBS2. “Agreeing to an extra $2.5 billion a year in costs would be completely irresponsible at any time, but especially in the economic times that we face now.”
Chicago Public Schools serves more than 300,000 students and employees more than 30,000 workers, all who will be impacted by the strike. CPS canceled classes ahead of the strike announcement, but say that school buildings will remain open and provide breakfast and lunch as part of its strike contingency plan.
“There will not be school tomorrow,” Lightfoot said Wednesday morning. “The union has been crystal clear they are going to strike.”
Picket lines will begin at 6:30am in front of all Chicago Public Schools, as well as at CPS headquarters. A large rally is being planning to take place in the Loop around 2:00pm.