CTU Big Bargaining Team urges teachers to walk if no deal by Oct.

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An autographed strike sign is displayed during a CTU one-day strike on April at Amundsen High School on the North Side. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

The Chicago Teachers Union’s Big Bargaining Team wants the union to walk off the job if a contract deal isn’t reached by October.

That’s according to the union’s latest contract bulletin, which is urging its members to prepare during the first weeks of school just in case.

CTU President Karen Lewis has said her members will report to work on the first day of school, but that they will not go another school year without a new contract to replace the one that expired on June 30, 2015.

“CTU members are so angry that many have said they’re ready to strike now before school is set to open,” read the Aug. 22 contract bulletin. “That anger is morally justified, but anger needs to be married with strategy in order to win the best possible outcome. After an entire summer of living on savings, after a summer with little contact with one another, after a summer away from students and families, our members are less secure and less united than we need to be.”

During contract negotiations, the union’s 40-strong Big Bargaining Team represents a variety of ages and of jobs that CTU members do, and the strong-willed group is the first line of approval on contract proposals. They unanimously rejected a January offer that Lewis herself considered “serious.”

But their recommendation to walk picket lines is just that. Union leadership has to file a 10-day strike notice with a state labor board before walking off the job, and the governing House of Delegates would have to vote to set a strike date. Members already voted overwhelmingly last December to authorize any strike.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, speaking at the Chicago Board of Education’s meeting on Wednesday, tried to strike a positive note on ongoing negotiations.

“Our hope now is to reach a final agreement with the CTU so that once school begins, our children can remain in the classroom where they belong. Our teachers work hard, which is why we are trying to give them the best raise we can, but we will continue to operate within the framework of what we can afford,” Claypool said. “We remain committed to putting our children first, and hope that the students who are so excited to return to class on September 6 will not see their school year disrupted by a strike.”

Meanwhile at schools, union members are supposed to gear up their ground game. School-based delegates have been asked to collect all personal cellphone information for their members and to schedule a meeting during the first week of classes. They’ll also receive strike readiness packets of information for parents and teachers.

“The CTU hopes to negotiate a fair contract without having to strike, but in order to bargain at our strongest, the union must be ready, willing and able to mobilize its power,” the union wrote. “All members should be thinking of parent outreach and ways to bring your school building together and ready to fight for a just contract that will move us closer to the schools our students deserve.”

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