CTU won’t accept buzzer-beater deal like in 2016, Sharkey says

“Don’t expect us to go to midnight on Wednesday,” the union president said about negotiations ahead of next Thursday’s strike deadline.

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CTU President Jesse Sharkey speaks to reporters Thursday, Oct. 10, at the union’s Near West Side headquarters.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union came down to the last hour in 2016 as the city narrowly beat a midnight strike deadline.

If the CTU has anything to say about it, that’s not going to happen this year.

Union president Jesse Sharkey said Thursday that a deal would need to come far enough in advance of the midnight Wednesday deadline to give leaders time to convene the CTU’s House of Delegates to vote whether to cancel the strike. He said the union won’t be pressured into accepting a rushed, last-minute offer.

“Don’t expect us to go to midnight on Wednesday, because the truth of the matter is we can’t put out notice for our delegates to come in at midnight, have people meet at 2 in the morning and then get ready to teach at 6 in the morning,” Sharkey said. “That’s not the way that’s going to work. ... Now is the time for stuff to move.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot appeared to agree earlier this week when she suggested a deal needs to get done by the end of Monday to avert a strike. Though time is certainly ticking with less than six days to go, it’s unlikely an agreement would need to be made that far in advance.

And while Sharkey said the CTU’s governing body would need to be the one to call off the strike, that’s not what happened the last time around. It was the union’s bargaining team that preliminarily decided the city’s proposal was good enough to stop the walkout.

This time, Sharkey said the House of Delegates gave the bargaining team a mandate not to call off a strike themselves, but to bring the issue to a vote.

Meanwhile, school board president Miguel del Valle showed up at bargaining Thursday to address the union, including to talk about the need for more black teachers and better support for bilingual and special education students. Del Valle said he also appreciated that he heard directly from rank-and-file CTU bargaining team members.

“I went there to speak about my vision as president of the board regarding a number of issues, including the fact that I agree that we need more social workers and more case managers and more nurses in our schools,” del Valle said. “We are in agreement. The mayor is in agreement on the staffing issues. But of course the demands that they put on the table initially for 4,000 positions, that’s impossible.”

Del Valle, who even Sharkey called a progressive leader, said he’s fully committed to providing some of the wraparound issues that should have been there “decades ago,” but that he needs to do so responsibly to avoid putting the school district into more debt.

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