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CTU strike, Day 6: Street closures Wednesday morning as teachers plan major march, protest at City Hall

CPS says more than 7,200 of 300,000 students attended school buildings Tuesday.

Striking members of the Chicago Teachers Union picketed in front of Milton Brunson Math & Science Specialty Elementary School. Sun-Times

The sixth day of the Chicago Teachers Union strike may have started on rocky footing, but by the end, negotiations between CTU and Chicago Public Schools may have stabilized.

Though teachers did not hold a formal rally today, there was plenty going on across the city. Not one but two presidential candidates offered support to CTU, and union President Jesse Sharkey called on his Twitter followers to wear red Thursday in support of the teachers strike.

Here’s what went down today — and where things headed Wednesday.

9:53 P.M. City warns of street closures downtown because of teacher protest

Wednesday’s commute could be tricky as the teachers plan to march and then rally at City Hall, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot is giving her first budget address.

City officials urged people take mass transit and said streets could be closed on a rotating basis, including Randolph, Washington, Clark, LaSalle, Franklin and Wacker Drive.

The union canceled pickets outside schools Wednesday morning, and instead told school staff to meet at the following locations and then march together, culminating in a rally outside City Hall:

• North Side schools: Swissotel, 323 E. Wacker Drive

• South Side: D’Angelo Park, 438 S. Franklin St.

• Southwest Side: Wrigley Square/Millennium Park, Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue

• West and Northwest Side: Willis Tower, 311 S. Wacker Drive

9:00 p.m. CTU, CPS negotiators ‘back on the right track’ ahead of major demonstration

First they were stalled. Then there was progress. Then hopes were “dashed.” And now they’re back on the right track.

The whirlwind that’s followed negotiations between the city and the teachers union since a strike began last week didn’t end on Tuesday, but it might have stabilized a bit.

The two sides went back to the table Tuesday morning after setbacks and heightened rhetoric the day before, and they spent much of the day discussing the union’s proposal on better funding sports programs.

”We had an incredibly powerful meeting with 25 sports coaches from around the city, elementary and high school coaches,” said Chicago Teachers Union chief of staff Jennifer Johnson.

Nader Issa breaks down the latest in negotiations between CTU and CPS. Check it out here.

7:35 p.m. CPS attendance dips, then climbs as strike moves into 7th day

Chicago Public Schools officials released attendance numbers at CPS during the strike, and Tuesday saw the second highest number of students using school buildings since the walkout began.

More than 7,200 students reported to 513 school buildings on Tuesday, the fourth day of the strike, according to CPS officials. That’s down from 7,500 on Thursday, the first day of the walkout. Attendance was lowest on Monday, when nearly 6,290 kids spent time at school.

Numbers from CPS Nader Issa/CPS

More than 300,000 students are enrolled in CPS, according to the district’s latest report.

Though classes have been canceled, CPS kept school buildings open to students as part of its contingency plan. The buildings have been open every weekday of the strike during their normal bell schedule with principals and non-unionized support staff on hand.

— Alison Martin

6:15 p.m. Joe Biden offers support to CTU president

Warren wasn’t the only Democratic presidential candidate to make a mark with teachers Tuesday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden called Sharkey Tuesday morning, Davis Gates said.

“Biden called Jesse this morning to high-five him and tell him that, you know, keep his back stiff and keep moving,” she said.

Nader Issa and Mitch Dudek have more on Biden’s call to Sharkey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s rally Tuesday morning. Check it out here.

4:30 p.m. CPS cancels Wednesday classes

Chicago Public Schools has canceled Wednesday classes.

The school district said the CTU’s House of Delegates had not scheduled a vote as of 4 p.m. Tuesday. After-school activities will also be canceled.

Alison Martin

2:40 p.m. Teachers union makes plans in case strike goes through Thursday — and possibly next week

The day after Chicago Teachers Union leaders said their hopes were “dashed” for a quick end to their strike, union officials are making plans for an extended work stoppage that could possibly go into next week.

Aiming to up the pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the union is planning a Wednesday morning rally around City Hall during the mayor’s first budget address.

For Thursday, the CTU is calling for a national day of action, asking teachers around the country to show support for Chicago’s striking teachers.

Nader Issa has the full story here.

1:24 p.m. Negotiations underway, but no update from either side

Representatives from CPS and CTU were negotiating in a first floor conference room at Malcolm X College Tuesday afternoon.

People have been meandering in and out in the last few minutes on a lunch break.

The blinds in the conference room were partially drawn, but an array of folders and other paperwork could be seen on the negotiating table along with plenty of coffee cups. No one from either side has provided an update to reporters who are milling about.

— Mitch Dudek

12:43 p.m. Negotiations resume without CTU’s full bargaining team

Negotiators headed back to the table this morning at Malcolm X College on the Near West Side, but they’re resuming talks without the CTU’s full bargaining team.

Union president Jesse Sharkey said Monday only the union’s officers would show up to the table. He told members in a Monday night email that the rest of the bargaining team would go back to picket lines because he didn’t want to “waste their time” at the table if no progress was being made.

— Nader Issa

12:27 p.m. What are they fighting over?

What are the contract proposals that bargaining team members with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union are trying to come to agreement on?

As the multi-day strike continues into its second week, reporters Lauren FitzPatrick and Nader Issa have the latest in the talks taking place behind closed doors at Malcolm X College.

Click here to see the provisions where the two sides have reached agreement — and where they’re still going back and forth.

— Sun-Times staff

11:14 a.m. Elizabeth Warren joins teachers on picket line

Picketing teachers and school support staff welcomed a special guest Tuesday morning at DePriest Elementary School on the West Side.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a top Democratic presidential hopeful, joined the striking workers for a rally alongside CTU president Jesse Sharkey, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and a few elected officials.

Elizabeth Warren hug supporters as she joins striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members for a speech on the picket line outside Oscar DePriest Elementary School.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Elizabeth Warren takes selfies with supporters on the picket line.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

“I’m here to stand with Chicago teachers. I’m here to stand with Chicago nurses. I’m here to stand with Chicago’s librarians,” Warren told the crowd of a couple hundred gathered in a soggy field outside the school.

“I’m here to stand with every one of the people who stand for our children every day,” the senator said. “Everyone in America should support you in this strike.”

Warren didn’t answer a question about whether she had spoken to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, which would be customary for a Democratic presidential candidate in a major and majority Democratic U.S. city.

“What I want to do is I want to give cities like Chicago a good federal partner,” Warren responded. “What we need to do is we need to ask those at the very top to pitch in a little more so that we can actually make the investments in every single child in this country. That’s how we build a future.

“That’s what CTU is here for. That’s what SEIU is here for. And that’s why I wanted to be here with them.”

Elizabeth Warren joins striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 members for a speech on the picket line outside Oscar DePriest Elementary School.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

— Nader Issa

10:04 a.m. Lightfoot downplays meeting between Elizabeth Warren and striking teachers

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday downplayed the meeting between Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and striking teachers.

“People are going to come in to catch a moment and then they’re going to leave,” Lightfoot said at a news conference at a Near North Side children’s play center where kids have been riding out the strike.

“She has her right to come in. I would expect all Democratic candidates for the presidency to support workers, that’s who we are as a party. But at the end of the day what’s going to get it done is what happens at the bargaining table,” she said.

Lightfoot also downplayed CTU President Jesse Sharkey’s sharp rhetoric, which included accusations that Lightfoot “dashed” hope of reaching a deal Monday following a letter from her to union leaders urging them to return to work while details of a final contract are hammered out.

“I think he overstates things dramatically, and I get that,” Lightfoot said.

She was also critical of CTU’s decision to not bring their full bargaining team to the table Tuesday.

“It’s unfortunate that the larger bargaining team has decided that they’re going to take the day off,” said Lightfoot. “There should be a sense of urgency all the way around.”

While pointing to her participation in high school sports, Lightfoot sympathized with athletes whose seasons are being interrupted by the strike.

“What we’re seeing is real human costs for this work stoppage,” she said.

Lightfoot, as she has in the past, pointed toward money issues that undergird negotiating troubles.

“There is a finite pot of money. We don’t have unlimited cash to keep funding the things that are aspirational and maybe things that, on values, that we share. We have to live within our means, that’s what the taxpayers expect of us and that’s what we’re going to do.”

— Mitch Dudek

8:57 a.m. From our readers: your strike stories

We asked Chicago 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:

I am new to Chicago. I do not know enough about the situation to determine a “side.” But I do know the impact this has had on my family. I am a single mom. As the head of household and caretaker, this is extremely stressful. I want good schools and well paid teachers. I just don’t want families stories to be erased in this process.

— Diana Coral Rivera

Expecting a new mayor to fix every problem that has taken years to build up is unreasonable. From what I see, Mayor Lightfoot is playing ball, but the CTU is going all or nothing while thousands of families have to scramble day after day. I’m with the mayor on this one.

— Dale Adney

I’m a parent of 2 CPS students and this strike is not about the students. They have been given a great deal and they want more to be paid by taxpayers. The city is also at fault for not managing the money for many years. They need to stop and get the kids back to school. The [parents] should have a rally against the CTU and CPS.

— Maria Munoz

Private companies are not giving 24% raises to their employees. Why are teachers entitled to this? Why aren’t the teachers earning 6 figures not paying the full 9.5% toward their lifetime pension? The rest of us are saving much more for no lifetime pension.

At 6 figure pensions for life, these teachers are the 1%! I pay 10k per year for my family healthcare and I work for a hospital! Teachers pay less than 2k with unheard of copays and deductibles.

They are exempt from ss tax and medicare too. I would gladly forgo those for a lifetime pension and free healthcare in retirement. They live in a bubble!

Why are the rest if us putting up with their holding kids hostage to every mayor we get?Lightfoot is learning what all the other mayors learned. CTU runs this city.

The terrible schools have nothing to do with money. It’s a fat bloated administrative bureaucracy at CPS, bad teachers who can’t get fired, and poor parenting. Great teachers have to work with terrible teachers for the same pay. Principals who stack the lsc with FOP (friends of principal). Could go on and on.

— Anonymous

While the teachers have been on strike, myself and my classmates have been busy as usual. We split our time between filling out college applications and going all over the city, hanging out with friends. For Jones students, this is no big deal. We are all pretty independent and can get around the city and fend for ourselves no problem. While thousands of kids are out of school, we take advantage of our time off. As for our school, we go to one of the best in the city. Jones has very high academic standards, test scores, and high quality teachers and is held in high esteem. We (along with other selective enrollment schools) also have Friends of Jones which helps cover a lot of the costs that CPS fails to meet. When some schools have had to lay off teachers, FOJ covered the cost to prevent Jones from laying off teachers. Our teachers are amazing — they teach some of the best students in the city and have more resources available than many other CPS schools.

I have recognized the incredible privilege of attending Jones and I am saddened that the opportunities I have at Jones are not universally accessible across all CPS high schools. Schools need full support staff and funding so teachers can do the best job that they can. While Jones is going to be fine, thousands of students do not have equal opportunities in this city. This needs to change to improve education in Chicago. Give teachers the support they need and meet their reasonable demands in order to help repair this broken education system in our city that we love.

— Miriam Clapp, Jones College Prep Senior

Only public employees think it makes sense to strike against a broke, junk bond rated employer. Teachers make about the same as nurses, but their college curriculum is much easier, and they enjoy numerous paid holidays and summers off. Their pension is ridiculous. They get 70,000 a year starting at age 60. Most people get 15-20,000 from social security, starting at age 65.

F.D.R thought that public employees should not be allowed to unionize, because they can sell their votes to politicians, while the taxpayers pay the freight. The real public employees in Illinois are taxpayers. The average taxpayer pays for government workers to make more than he or she does, for less work, with a ridiculous pension, and no worries about being fired for poor work.

— Richard Crane

We want to hear from you. Email us at ctustrike@suntimes.com and leave us your phone number if you’d like to chat.

7:23 a.m. Elizabeth Warren to join the strike

Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is set to join the city’s striking teachers on the picket line this morning.

The senator will bring her campaign to Chicago in a visit to Oscar DePriest Elementary School at 139 S. Parkside Ave. in Austin on the West Side, her campaign said.

“I called Chicago teachers on strike to let them know I’m standing beside them,” Warren wrote on Twitter Monday. “They’re out fighting for the future of our students—and I’m with them all the way. #PutItInWriting #FairContractNow.”

— Nader Issa

6:25 a.m. Teacher strike enters day 6

The Chicago teacher strike enters its fourth school day Tuesday, which also marks the sixth day of negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools.

Monday night, the Chicago Teachers Union said that negotiations took a turn for the worse, and said their hopes were “dashed” for a quick resolution to the strike.

“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.

— Nader Issa & Fran Spielman

Nader Issa and Fran Spielman followed Monday’s negotiations and where CTU and CPS stood at the end of the day. Read the full report here.

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