With less than a week before Chicago’s public school teachers could strike, negotiators have cleared the holiday weekends for talks they hope will result finally in a contract.
That’s what the Chicago Teachers Union leadership told the House of Delegates on Wednesday, after meeting with the governing body which also would have to approve any agreement union bargainers might reach with the Board of Education.
The talks now are planned right up to the Oct. 11 deadline, when teachers say they’ll walk picket lines, including on Monday’s Columbus Day holiday. The talks have intensified for the first time since January, when the 40-member Big Bargaining Team shot down an offer union leadership considered serious enough to take to them.
”We’re cautiously optimistic that something can get some movement somewhere,” said Alison Eichhorn, one of the 40 who teach at Lindbloom Math and Science Academy High School. “We didn’t get an offer today. We expect that an offer will be coming, they hinted that there will be an offer.”
Union members were hesitant about contract details that seemed promising but hadn’t yet been committed to paper. They said they wanted to protect conditions in classrooms that have already been cut, in addition to maintaining salaries.
Eichhorn described the mood among the delegates as “serious.”
“We want a deal as much as CPS wants a deal. We do not want to strike, but we will strike if it is what is needed for students, and that is the bottom line. So we’re hoping we can reach a deal before Tuesday,” Eichhorn said.
CTU leadership, who were in talks all day, left through a back door without stopping to talk to reporters.
“There’s nothing to report,” Karen Lewis said from the passenger seat of her car.
Asked if there has been movement during Wednesday’s session, she said only: “Yes. How about that? Yes.”
On Thursday the union plans to rally at more than 200 schools as part of a national protest for better school funding.
Charter school advocates will stage a separate protest outside the Board of Education.
CPS leaders also say they believe a strike can be avoided.
But in case it cannot, all school buildings would remain open for their normal school day, including breakfast and lunch, though before- and after-school activities would be canceled.