CTU strike, Day 7: 80 tentative agreements reached as bargaining ends, but mainly on minor issues

Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for Thursday, marking the sixth day students won’t be in school.

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Inside City Hall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot laid the city’s fiscal cards out on the table during her first budget address to City Council and the message was clear: There’s no more money then the billions she’s already committed for Chicago Public Schools and the city won’t be bailing out the district if it doesn’t live within its means.

Outside City Hall, the Chicago Teachers Union led a massive rally that blocked several streets downtown. By the end of the night, negotiations seemed to be moving in the right direction, but as of Wednesday night, no concrete end to the strike is in sight.

Here’s how the seventh day of the CTU strike played out.

9:05 p.m. CTU’s VP criticizes ‘bail out’ claim; 80 tentative agreements reached

At the end of Wednesday’s bargaining session, CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates criticized the mayor’s characterization of the union’s demands as a bailout.

“A bailout on smaller class sizes? That’s not a bailout, that’s an investment in the future of our country,” Davis Gates said. “So the paradigm has to shift. She has to get out of the way of success [and] a monumental, legacy-building contract that she will benefit from as a hero.”

Still, the city and teachers union reached 80 tentative agreements Wednesday, Davis Gates said, but all were on minor technical issues, like translation services for meetings with families small facets of teacher evaluations.

Jake Wittich joins Lauren FitzPatrick and Nader Issa as they recap the day’s negotiations.

6:05 p.m. Lightfoot: We won’t bail out CPS, pay for everything teachers union wants

As Chicago Public Schools classes were cancelled for the sixth consecutive day during a strike by teachers and support staff, Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed that the city would not bail out the school system to secure a teachers contract.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board after her first budget address, the mayor showed no signs of caving to end the work stoppage that put 300,000 students out of class and led to tens of thousands of striking Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU members shutting down the Loop during her first budget address to City Council Wednesday.

“What we’ve been very clear about, is they’ve got to live within their means, whatever those means are and they can’t exceed that, and look to the city to bail them out,” Lightfoot said. “And I think that message has been delivered loud and clear to [CPS CEO] Dr. [Janice] Jackson and her team and we also need the CTU to hear the same thing: There is not an unlimited pot of money to fund everything they want.”

Lauren FitzPatrick and Nader Issa break down what Lightfoot told the Sun-Times in a full report here.

5:40 p.m. CTU holding civil disobedience training Thursday to ‘break the logjam at the table’

The Chicago Teachers Union is holding “civil disobedience training” Thursday afternoon “to combat the mayor’s stonewalling,” according to a memo sent to union members.

The union message encouraged members to go to the CTU’s Near West Side headquarters at 3 p.m. Thursday to “learn the lessons of the civil rights movement” and receive training on blocking intersections, disrupting office lobbies and other nonviolent efforts.

Union spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said “every tool, every tactic, every strategy that we employ is ... designed to advance bargaining and break the logjam at the table.

”Many of our members have experience with nonviolent civil disobedience, but not all of our members have that experience,” Geovanis said. “This is designed to either give those who want a refresher or want to strengthen that muscle to develop that tool for the toolkit.”

— Nader Issa

5:00 p.m. Eight schools lose chance at state football playoffs after CPS cancels Thursday’s classes

Eight Public League football teams have lost the chance to advance to the Illinois High School Association’s state football playoffs after Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for Thursday due to the ongoing Chicago Teachers Union strike.

Back of the Yards, Chicago Military-Bronzeville, King, Phoenix, Simeon, Solorio, Vocational and Young are the teams impacted.

“It’s very emotional and disheartening,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said. “These kids work so hard. To lose a game is one thing. To be caught up in this is a totally different thing. I’m getting calls from emotional kids.”

Michael O’Brien has the full report. Read it here.

4:20 p.m. CPS cancels 6th day of classes

Chicago Public Schools classes are canceled for a sixth day Thursday as the Chicago Teachers Union plans to carry on with its strike, the school district announced Wednesday afternoon.

Despite the cancelation, the city and teachers union reached tentative agreements on a couple issues Wednesday, including teacher evaluation language “to ensure fairness, equity and how high stakes tests are factored in,” according to a source close to negotiations.

The two sides also neared deals on other issues such as sick days.

But discussions were ongoing on the major proposals, including class size, staffing and special education.

CTU Executive Board member Michelle Gunderson tweeted photos from Malcolm X College of the union’s bargaining team discussing various proposals. In one photo that showed union president Jesse Sharkey, a screen at the front of the room displayed a proposal on special education with lines in red or crossed out.

“Right now the bargaining team is going over 10 pages of responses from the board. We are reaching tentative agreements on many items. We are experts at grading homework — every word counts,” Gunderson tweeted.

Nader Issa

12:42 p.m. Crowds disperse and streets reopen

Following a rally outside the Thompson Center, crowds have dispersed. Streets in the Loop reopened around noon.

— Matthew Hendrickson

12:09 p.m. Teachers rally outside Thompson Center

After congregating outside City Hall during Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget address, most protesters made their way to the Thompson Center for a planned rally.

Stacy Davis Gates, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, was spotted at the rally, as well as a few aldermen.

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Members of the Chicago Teachers Union rally outside the Thompson Center Wednesday afternoon.

Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

— Ashlee Rezin Garcia and Matthew Hendrickson

11:52 a.m. Lightfoot’s budget includes largest TIF surplus in Chicago history

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget includes a $300 million tax increment financing surplus — the largest in Chicago history — just to help bankroll the $500 million offer the striking Chicago Teachers Union has already rejected, a top mayoral aide said Wednesday.

By closing out five TIFs and scouring all of the others, Lightfoot has managed to generate $163 million for Chicago Public Schools. That’s $66 million more than the school system received last year.

The city will get $31 million of that money to help defray its $838 million budget gap.

A top mayoral aide acknowledged the TIF surplus is the largest in Chicago history. It’s $125 million more than last year.

But the aide stressed the windfall for CPS is enough to cover only the five-year, $500 million mayoral offer that CTU already has rejected. That offer includes a 16% pay raise over five years and increases in school support staff.

Read the full story from Fran Spielman and Nader Issa here.

— Fran Spielman & Nader Issa

11:26 a.m. Negotiations resume between CPS, CTU

Negotiators were back at Malcolm X College Wednesday morning while, across town, thousands of teachers and support staff protested outside City Hall, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot was unveiling her first budget.

The bargaining teams showed up at 10 a.m. but were still working among themselves an hour later and hadn’t yet met face to face.

A source close to negotiations said the two sides didn’t sit across from each other much on Tuesday, either, but instead passed proposals back and forth while each side discussed on its own.

Still, both the city and union described Tuesday as a good day at the table with steady progress. But several issues remain without agreements, so it’s unclear if a deal could get done before the weekend.

The union’s full negotiating team is expected back at bargaining Wednesday after taking Tuesday to go back to picket lines and talk to members.

— Nader Issa

10:32 a.m. Strikers sit in streets around City Hall during budget address

As Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget address got underway, striking teachers and staff sat down in the streets surrounding City Hall.

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Union members sit on Randolph Street outside City Hall.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

— Mitch Dudek

9:48 p.m. “We know we’re not going to get paid. But it’s a good cause.”

Ernest Radcliffe, a Morgan Park High School security guard and baseball coach — also a member of SEIU — said not getting paid during the strike is a hardship for him and his family of twelve, but it’s all necessary.

“God is on my side, I’m blessed. We’ll be fine ... We’ll make it work. We’ll have to eat rice and beans,” he said with a smile.

“We know we’re not going to get paid. But it’s a good cause.”

“We need our money but we also need the right things to be in place. We need Lori Lightfoot to get on board with the CTU and SEIU. We are marching in solidarity. We have to do it.”

— Mitch Dudek

9:31 a.m. Strikers converge outside City Hall

After gathering at four different locations and marching on different paths throughout the Loop, teachers and staff have converged outside City Hall ahead of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s first budget address to call for a “fair contract.”

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Groups marched from the south, north and west to come together in a display of power they hope will move the city to meet their demands for smaller class sizes, more support staff and better wages.

Later in the morning, the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 plan to rally outside the Thompson Center.

The rally shut down multiple streets in the Loop. Drivers rushed to beat the crowd and honked in support and frustration at the gridlock. Some workers downtown paused to take pictures and shout words of encouragement to the strikes, but most hurried about their day, noting the protest with only passing glances as they navigated crowded sidewalks and streets.

— Matthew Hendrickson

8:37 a.m. Teachers, staff march to City Hall

And they’re off.

Thousands of teachers and staff that had gathered at 323 E. Wacker Drive headed east on Wacker Drive toward Michigan Avenue and then south on State Street before turning west on Randolph and heading to City Hall.

Those that were gathered at Willis Tower headed east on Jackson Drive and then north on Dearborn toward City Hall.

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Teachers march to City Hall ahead of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget address.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

— Mitch Dudek & Matthew Hendrickson

8:23 a.m. Teachers gather at 4 locations before march to City Hall

Teachers and staff have started gathering in the four designated locations ahead of their march to City Hall.

At Willis Tower, a group of about 100 West and Northwest Side teachers have congregated.

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West and Northwest Side teachers gather at Willis Tower ahead of their march to City Hall.

Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

Maria Shehab, a teacher at Garvy Elementary School, said she has over 30 kids in her science and social studies class, and hopes to send a message to the community and the country.

“I just hope everyone sees our perspective. We want to send a mass message. I think today will do that,” Shehab said.

At 323 E. Wacker, the meet-up spot for North Side teachers, about 100 teachers were amassed, with dozens more arriving every few minutes.

— Matthew Hendrickson & Mitch Dudek

6:44 a.m. Union to rally around City Hall during Lightfoot’s first budget address

After failing to reach a deal Tuesday, Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday, marking the fifth day of canceled classes and the seventh day of the teachers strike — with no end in sight.

Aiming to up the pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the union is planning a 10 a.m. rally this morning around City Hall during her first budget address.

Instead of picketing at the city’s hundreds of schools, teachers and support staff are planning to meet at these four locations before they march in toward City Hall:

• North Side schools: Swissotel, 323 E. Wacker

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

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

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

Streets in the Loop could be shut down from as early as 8 a.m. until around noon as potentially thousands of teachers and staff march through downtown. 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.

— Sun-Times Staff

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