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CTU strike, Day 5: Talks between CTU, CPS break down as strike pushes on

Mayor Lightfoot urged teachers to return to work while talks continued, but the union says it’s up to her to end the walkout.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 march through the Loop after a rally, three days before the unions could walk off the job on strike, Monday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2019.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 march through the Loop after a rally, three days before the unions could walk off the job on strike, Monday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Early Monday morning, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said CTU and Chicago Public Schools could reach an agreement in “a day or two,” but by the end of the day, the union’s hopes were “dashed” for a quick resolution as the day came to an end.

What happened? Here’s how the talks between CTU and CPS broke down after a day of pointed letters, exuberant rallies and forfeited soccer games.

10:06 p.m. Mayor says talks went well, criticizes union for not sending full team to table Tuesday

The mayor responded to the union’s claims saying she was actually encouraged by progress in negotiating. She again asked teachers to go back to work.

“Tomorrow, for the fourth straight school day, students from throughout the city won’t be participating in the athletic competitions they’ve earned the right to compete in, won’t be preparing their college applications with trusted school staff, and won’t be in classrooms with the teachers who hold the keys to their success,” she said.

“We must fix that immediately and end this strike. Real progress has been made on the key contract issues that CTU identified, and written proposals to boost staffing and support overcrowded classrooms have been exchanged.

However, she urged the union to send its full team to the bargaining table Tuesday.

“We were encouraged today by the improved pace of bargaining and substantive discussions on key issues, so it is now deeply concerning to hear that CTU is pulling members of its bargaining team away from the negotiating table tomorrow at this crucial juncture. Our full team will be ready first thing tomorrow morning to continue working toward the fair contract our teachers, students, and families deserve.”

Nader Issa and Fran Spielman break down today’s negotiations and where CTU and CPS stand as the strike moves into its sixth day. Read their report here.

8:20 p.m. CTU says hopes ‘dashed’ for quick end to strike after letter from mayor, bad day at bargaining table

The Chicago Teachers Union said Monday night that negotiations took a turn for the worse, and said their hopes were “dashed” for a quick resolution to the strike as it headed for its sixth day — and fourth day of canceled classes for 300,000 students.

“It’s stuck,” CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates told reporters outside Malcolm X College on the Near West Side, where negotiations wrapped up more than an hour earlier expected.

President Jesse Sharkey said it wasn’t a good day at the table and he wasn’t sure there would be an end to the walkout any time soon.

“What happened today, in the letter and speech, dashed my hopes,” he said.

7:40 p.m. CPS negotiations with school support staff last just 12 minutes

While all the focus has been on teachers and their fight for a new contract with Chicago Public Schools, their purple-clad friends — school support staff who are members of SEIU Local 73 — are in a similar battle.

But their negotiations are proceeding on a less-frequent schedule than the daily meetings between CTU and CPS that continued over the weekend. On Monday, for the first time since the strike began, the union representing the school district’s 7,500 custodians, bus aides, security officers and special education classroom assistants went back to the bargaining table to try to hammer out a deal with the district.

That came after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an event earlier in the day that SEIU was stalling negotiations and had “made it very clear they are not doing anything until CTU moves.”

For more on these negotiations, check out Nader Issa and Fran Spielman’s report here.

6:10 p.m. IHSA declines to hold appeal hearing on reinstating CPS soccer teams to state playoffs

The Illinois High School Association declined to hold an appeal hearing to reinstate Public League soccer teams to the Class 2A and 3A playoffs on Monday. The teams were forced to forfeit the upcoming games due to the teachers strike.

Principals from Washington and Alcott filed an appeal with the IHSA on Sunday, claiming that the association’s strike policy doesn’t specifically mention games, just “competition.”

Read more from Michael O’Brien on CPS soccer players and coaches here.

5:53 p.m. On day 5 of teachers strike, union members rally on Near West Side

It was all about a show of force Monday for the Chicago Teachers Union as thousands of striking members marched past some of the trendiest eateries and bars along Restaurant Row just west of downtown.

Familiar chants such as “We are the Union! The mighty, mighty Union!” filled Randolph Street as waiters and waitresses, with downtime on their hands between lunch and dinner, looked on.

Marchers stopped in front of McDonald’s headquarters at Randolph and Carpenter Streets.

Chicago developer Sterling Bay built the structure, known as Hamburger University, and is the developer of Lincoln Yards, a major North Side project which aims to use up to $1.3 billion in city funding.

CTU targeted Sterling Bay because, they say, that type of money should go toward putting a nurse in every school.

Marchers had planned to go past the company’s nearby offices but were ultimately rerouted.

The rally and march started in Union Park about 2 p.m. and broke up around 4 p.m. at the same location after marching several miles through the Near West Side and West Loop.

Mitch Dudek

5:20 p.m. Elizabeth Warren will join in supporting Chicago teachers Tuesday

Democratic presidential candidate and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is set to travel to Chicago on Tuesday to join the city’s striking teachers and school support staff on the picket line.

The senator will visit Oscar DePriest Elementary School in South Austin on the West Side, her campaign said.

Warren will become the second democratic presidential candidate, after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to rally with the CTU and SEIU Local 73 during their contract fights. Sanders made an appearance at the union’s Near West Side headquarters last month.

Warren is one of several presidential candidates who have posted messages and videos of support on social media leading up to and throughout the work stoppage at CPS.

— Nader Issa

4:20 p.m. CPS cancels Tuesday classes

Chicago Public Schools announced via Instagram that Tuesday classes would be canceled.

“As of 4 p.m., CTU has not scheduled a House of Delegates vote, which would be necessary to end their strike,” the Instagram post said. “As a result it will not be possible to hold classes tomorrow, 10/22.”

Janice Jackson, CEO of CPS, said in a tweet that the announcement came at 4 p.m. because families asked to be notified about canceled classes earlier in the day.

— Lauren FitzPatrick

4:10 p.m. ‘Hold our burgers. Hold our fries. Make our wages supersized.’’

The CTU rally that started on Ashland Avenue passed by Hamburger University — McDonald’s new headquarters — in West Town to send a message to the city and the building’s developer, Sterling Bay.

“Hold our burgers. Hold our fries. Make our wages supersized,” marchers chanted.

Sterling Bay developed the McDonald’s headquarters and is the developer of Lincoln Yards, a major project which aims to use up to $1.3 billion in city funding. CTU is targeting Sterling Bay because, they say, that type of money should go toward putting a nurse in every school.

The rally will continue on to Sterling’s headquarters.

Striking teachers in front of Hamburger University Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Mitch Dudek

3:21 p.m. From our readers: your strike stories

We asked Sun-Times readers to write in and let us know how the teachers strike is affecting their families. Here’s what they had to say.

Teachers’ demands haven’t been met for ten years, they tell us. Their just concerns are mainly about the students -- where conditions have been so awful that parents who can afford it pull their students out of the public schools.

We can and should have TOP QUALITY public schools in Chicago. It happens in many other parts of the world.

The money “that is not there” to achieve this can be found in the coffers of the rich -- like offshore tax havens.”

— Betsie Weil

“I have two foster children. One in her 2nd year of preschool. The other one on waitlist at El Valor ... I pray the matter is solved soon. My baby miss[es] school.”

— Carolyn Flournoy

We want to hear from you. Email us at ctustrike@suntimes.com or send us a tweet or DM at @suntimes.

3:06 p.m. Union responds to Lightfoot letter

Asked Monday afternoon whether the union would consider the mayor’s request, CTU bargaining team member Alison Eichhorn said “that’s not gonna happen.”

”I don’t know if the mayor is familiar with what unions do, but we’ve gotten more deals, more tentative agreements, in these last two days than we have in 10 months,” Eichhorn said. “So it’s actually up to the mayor. When we’re talking about bargaining in good faith and we’re talking about a sense of urgency, we have had urgency for 10 months.”

Click here to read the letter and learn more about what it means for contract talks.

”The last thing we wanted to do is leave our classrooms. We’re here now because we have not had any offers from the board, and now in two days we’ve gotten so many offers. We are going to make sure we do this right, and I’m sorry that that takes time.”

Nader Issa

3:02 p.m. Teachers rally in Union Park

Thousands of CTU strikers begin marching south on Ashland Avenue from a rally at Union Park. Photos:

CTU strikers begin marching south on Ashland Avenue from a rally at Union Park. Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
CTU strikers begin marching south on Ashland Avenue from a rally at Union Park. Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
CTU strikers begin marching south on Ashland Avenue from a rally at Union Park. Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
CTU strikers begin marching south on Ashland Avenue from a rally at Union Park. Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The teachers headed southwest on Ogden and turned east on Randolph. The March will proceed down Restaurant Row on Randolph, past some of the city’s trendiest eateries and bars, to rally outside McDonald’s headquarters, and then on to the offices of Sterling Bay.

Sterling Bay developed the McDonald’s headquarters and is the developer of Lincoln Yards, a major project which aims to use millions in city funding. CTU is targeting Sterling Bay because, they say, that type of money should go toward putting a nurse in every school.

Mitch Dudek

2:43 p.m. Union invites Rev. Jackson to the bargaining table

The Chicago Teachers Union has invited the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. to act as a mediator in the union’s negotiations with Chicago Public Schools.

The invitation Monday morning came a few days after Jackson showed up at bargaining and addressed both city and union officials.

In a statement released by the CTU, union president Jesse Sharkey called Jackson a “respected resident of our city and great statesman for our nation.”

”He has won the freedom of American hostages throughout the world and has broken countless labor stalemates throughout the country, and we welcome his participation in these negotiations,” Sharkey said in the statement.

Rev. Jesse Jackson
Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention in Chicago, Tuesday, July 2, 2019.
AP Photos

”We know that Rev. Jackson will be fair and just and assist in bringing a resolution for the communities we serve.”

The city has not been receptive to involving Jackson in the process, according to a source close to bargaining.

Jackson was quoted in the union’s news release saying that he understands both the mayor’s budget concerns and is also “very sensitive to the voices of educators, who are often the ones on the day to day front lines with the students.”

”I pray that my voice at the table will be the catalyst necessary for a fair and equitable deal to be reached,” Jackson said in his statement.

Nader Issa

2:34 p.m. Lightfoot holds press conference on teacher strike

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Lightfoot said the city has no more resources to give the union than the money it has already committed.

“Beyond what we’ve put on the table, there is no more money,” she said, repeating it for emphasis.

”We cannot strike a deal based on the illusion that there is Lincoln Yards money available that we can just shift somewhere else,” she said, referring to more than $1 billion in subsidies that were committed to a massive new development on the North Side. “That’s not realistic and it just doesn’t work like that.”

”Enough is enough. There is no further excuse to keep our kids out of school.”

She said they have addressed the union’s primary concerns in writing — as the CTU has demanded — so “let’s get our kids back to school.”

She added: ”Our children — and I’ve heard it directly from them — and our parents are suffering.”

Read the latest on the state of contract negotiations between the union and CPS.

Fran Spielman

Watch the press conference here:

11:21 a.m. Lightfoot urges union to end strike

In a letter sent Monday to union president Jesse Sharkey, Mayor Lori Lighftoot has urged Chicago teachers to end their strike while the city and union continue negotiating a new contract.

The mayor writes in the letter, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, that while the two sides have “made progress at the bargaining table, it is unclear that we can reach an agreement today given the current pace.”

Click here to read the letter and learn more about what it means for contract talks.

Nader Issa

10:53 a.m. Is there an end in sight?

It’s no easy game trying to guess when contract talks between CPS and CTU — and the resulting strike that has 300,000 Chicago students out of class — might conclude.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey said Monday morning that the two sides could reach an agreement in “a day or two.” Minutes later, he suggested it might wrap “within a couple days.”

“I don’t see any reason why it can’t happen later this week,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Board of Education postponed its October meeting, previously scheduled for Wednesday, in anticipation of continuing negotiations.

9:52 a.m. ‘We haven’t had a librarian in four years’

Teachers and staff from several elementary schools in Pilsen converged Monday morning along Ashland Avenue banging cowbells, maracas and snare drums.

Their music was answered by dozens of cars and semi-trucks blasting their horns in support.

Teachers, parents and students in Pilsen marched up and down Ashland Avenue on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.
Teachers, parents and students in Pilsen marched up and down Ashland Avenue on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

“We’re here for the kids — that’s it,” said Roisleen Todd, a preschool teacher at Pilsen Community Academy.

Like many of her colleagues citywide, Todd worries her school doesn’t have enough support staff to properly serve the neediest students.

“I have 3 foster students in my class but no support for them,” said Pilsen Academy first grade teacher Evon Perez.

“Our resources are depleted. We haven’t had a librarian in four years. Our counselors are overworked. It’s time to do things right by our kids.”

Carlos Ballesteros

8:39 a.m. Teachers return to the picket line

Dozens of teachers, parents and students from Cooper Elementary in Pilsen marched up and down Ashland Avenue on Monday.

Dozens of teachers, parents and students from Cooper Elementary in Pilsen marched up and down Ashland Avenue on Monday. Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Picketing teachers had also gathered outside CPS headquarters downtown early Monday morning:

Picketing teachers had also gathered outside CPS headquarters downtown early Monday morning. Kathy Chaney/Sun-Times

7:51 a.m. ‘We’re not there yet’

Speaking to reporters Monday morning on the Northwest Side, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the two sides could reach an agreement in “a day or two.”

”I don’t see any reason why it can’t happen later this week,” Sharkey said outside Gray Elementary in Portage Park.

He said there was a “tremendous amount” of progress in negotiations over the weekend, but “we’re not there yet.”

Sharkey said he understands the strike has been tough on students, parents and teachers who want to get back into the classroom. He said his own son’s high school soccer team qualified for the state playoffs and might miss out on his game.

But Sharkey said there needs to be a “commitment of new resources” before the union can end its strike.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey (front row, second from left) and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates (third from left) march with members of the CTU and SEIU Local 73 through the Loop after a rally, three days before the unions could walk off the job on strike, Monday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2019.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey (front row, second from lleft) and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates (third from left) march with members of the CTU and SEIU Local 73 through the Loop after a rally, three days before the unions could walk off the job on strike, Monday afternoon, Oct. 14, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

”We could end this within a couple days, but there would need to be a commitment on the mayor’s part to do that,” he said.

Some of the issues he said still need to be addressed — other than the main points of class size and staffing — are wages for the district’s lowest-paid support staff, teacher preparation time and salary bumps for veteran teachers who have “no meaningful career ladder” after about a dozen years with the district, he said.

Nader Issa

7:17 a.m. Kids head to contingency sites for a third school day

Families received word late Sunday that classes would not resume Monday, forcing some parents parents to scramble for a third time to find child care.

Before the strike began last week, CPS shared a list of designated contingency sites including CPS buildings staffed by non-union employees, all Chicago Public Libraries, 18 parks, 34 designated “Safe Haven” sites, and other community partner sites.

Breakfast and lunch will be offered at each school, and students will be provided with a meal to take home, according to the email sent to parents by CPS Sunday night.

The Chicago Food Depository is also coordinating meals for students at contingency sites:

Lizzie Schiffman Tufano

6:21 a.m. Teachers strike enters week 2

Chicago Public Schools classes are canceled for a third day after both the city and the Chicago Teachers Union spent several hours Sunday negotiating to reach a deal to end the union’s strike.

Jennifer Johnson, chief of staff for CTU, said negotiations ended Sunday evening with both sides reaching agreements on issues affecting students experiencing homelessness, school counselors and early childhood educators.

Johnson also said the union provided the city with a counter-proposal on class sizes, and it plans to respond to the school district’s staffing proposal early Monday.

“After two days of school being canceled while we’re on strike, we’ve seen movement and made some wins,” Johnson said. “It shouldn’t take being on strike for the needs of our students to be met, but as we’ve said repeatedly, we’re looking for a just contract.”

The union hopes to see a response to the counter-proposal tomorrow. Negotiations are set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Jake Wittich and Tom Schuba

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