The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body confirmed Wednesday night that for the time being, teachers will not strike.
The union’s elected delegates did not cast votes to set a strike date — though state law permits them to walk as soon as May 16 — though hundreds did reach a consensus.
However, nothing prevents the delegates from calling an emergency meeting if they change their minds before their next meeting scheduled in early June.
That’s what CTU leadership, who foretold the outcome, suggested Wednesday.
If Chicago Public Schools unilaterally cancels a 7 percent pension benefit it makes on behalf of teachers, the CTU would call an emergency delegates meeting to give the required 10 days’ notice of a strike that would start “when it’s advantageous for us and not for them,” CTU President Karen Lewis said.
“We are leaving all of our options open. Please understand that,” Lewis said. “Again, we’re moving bills in Springfield. Things are moving in Springfield. We know that they are listening to us so we’re going to do the best we can.”
The union wants members to call legislators to push the legislation along.
But those bills, which include a school-funding bill introduced by State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, that both the union and the district like, aren’t enough to solve the district’s fiscal woes, Lewis said.
“We are aware that the bills we’ve agreed to work with CPS on — even if they all work — still will not plug the $1.1 billion deficit” projected for the new fiscal year starting July 1, Lewis said.
That’s why CTU leaders also floated on Wednesday ideas for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to raise up to $500 million more for the broke school system.
The long shot measures CTU hopes to sell to the City Council include imposing new taxes on ridesharing services, an estimated $15 million; reinstating the corporate head tax, $94 million; and raising taxes on car rentals by 2 percent, $35 million.
And it estimates an additional $100 million available each for releasing all the tax-increment financing service surplus; assessing the valuation of commercial property taxes at 25 percent of the sale price; and doubling the gas tax to $.10 per gallon while gas prices are falling.
CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner repeated the district’s and mayor’s mantra that “everyone must play a part — Springfield, Chicagoans, CPS and the CTU.”
But, she continued, “CTU leadership cannot let Gov. Rauner and Springfield off the hook for equally funding Chicago students — and that’s exactly what this misguided proposal does. . . . Rather than throw in the towel until 2019 on a solution in Springfield, now is the time for the CTU leadership to press harder than ever for justice.”
City Hall spokeswoman Kelley Quinn shot down the revenue proposals, saying they didn’t explain the impact of the taxes on ordinary Chicagoans and were full of inaccuracies.
“Of all organizations, the Chicago Teachers Union should understand how students and taxpayers are being shortchanged by the current funding system in Springfield,” she said in an email. “Before asking Chicago taxpayers to pony up more money, we need to fix this inequity in Springfield.”
Meanwhile, negotiations to replace the contract that expired nearly a year ago continue “quite well at the table,” Lewis said. “We’re generous with one another. It’s not ugly.”
The district also believes a deal can be reached.
Bargaining began well over a year ago. Last month, an independent fact-finder issued recommendations that declared CPS’ most recent offer a fair deal for both parties. That proposal, offered in January and rejected promptly by CTU’s negotiating team, phased out a 7 percent pension benefit CPS paid for teachers but also included raises over the life of the four-year contract. It also contained several quality-of-life clauses the union has long lobbied for.
CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said he would somehow find the money to pay for those benefits, acknowledging that the broke district could no longer afford them.
The CTU struck down that deal immediately after it was made public, which started a 30-day countdown until the union could legally strike for the second time in four years.
CPS has drawn up contingency plans in case teachers stop working early. Graduation ceremonies would go on but final exams could be canceled.