CTU strike, Day 8: Day ends with ‘ good progress’ at bargaining table

Chicago Public Schools officially canceled Friday classes.

SHARE CTU strike, Day 8: Day ends with ‘ good progress’ at bargaining table
CTU members address the media outside on Oct. 24, 2019.

CTU members address the media after negotiations with CPS on Oct. 24, 2019.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

As of today, the Chicago Teachers Union has been on strike for a full week — and students have missed seven days of class. But that’s not all. With the strike ongoing, student athletes are at risk of missing state playoffs, and they’re not happy about it.

“The adults need to find a way to let the kids play,” a Simeon football player said.

Here’s what else went down.

8:50 p.m. ‘Good progress’ at bargaining table, CTU says

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union bargaining team said Thursday night there was “good progress” at the bargaining table with Chicago Public Schools. In particular, talks on special education were “very productive.”

Today was a good day,said Jen Johnson, CTU chief of staff.

Asked whether there was “a realistic hope we could be back in the classroom on Monday morning,” Johnson answered, “That is absolutely our hope. And we’ll see where we are tomorrow.”

Still, Chicago students are set to miss a seventh day of classes Friday and the work stoppage now matches the length of the city’s 2012 teachers strike.

The CTU will hold a rally Friday at Buckingham Fountain.

Read the full report on the day’s events by Nader Issa, Lauren FitzPatrick and Tom Schuba report.

8:24 p.m. Striking teachers, support staff receive civil disobedience training, prepare for arrests

As Chicago Public Schools announced the cancellation of a seventh day of classes, hundreds of striking educators and support staff filled the auditorium at the Chicago Teachers Union’s headquarters Thursday to receive civil disobedience training.

The training session signals that members of the CTU and SEIU Local 73 are planning to escalate their aggressive demonstration efforts — and potentially face arrest. During the presentation, led by an SEIU Healthcare executive and a staffer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, the strikers were coached on blocking traffic and shutting down building lobbies.

“We are probably under a consensus and agreement that what we want to do is what is going to advance our message as clearly as possible and put as much possible pressure on the mayor to settle this problem as quickly as possible,” said Han, the Sanders staffer.

Tom Schuba attended the civil disobedience meeting this afternoon. Get his full report here.

6:30 p.m. Lightfoot responds to SEIU presidents letter urging her to join bargaining table

In response to a letter asking her to join negotiations with striking school support staff workers, Mayor Lori Lightfoot shot back at the union’s president, saying she “will not be drawn into a political stunt.”

Lightfoot writes in the letter delivered Thursday evening to SEIU Local 73 president Dian Palmer that she is “happy to participate directly in negotiations at any time that it would be helpful,” but that the union must “demonstrate first a willingness to negotiate in good faith” before the mayor joins talks.

The critical letter from the mayor is a sharp escalation of the rhetoric surrounding tense negotiations with both SEIU 73, which represents 7,500 school support staff workers, and the Chicago Teachers Union. The two labor groups Friday are entering day nine of their joint walkout, which has canceled seven days of classes.

At a news conference earlier in the day, Larry Alcoff, the head negotiator for SEIU Local 73, said the request for the mayor to join negotiations “is not a publicity stunt. It is not playing a game.”

“It is a sincere, legitimate request that real decision-makers, starting with the mayor, participate in the bargaining with us and figure out how to settle the agreement,” Alcoff said. “We are making a request to the mayor to come into the room with us, stay in the room with us, and roll up our sleeves together and see if we can’t work through the remaining issues that are open on the table.”

Nader Issa

4:15 p.m. Friday classes canceled at CPS

Chicago students are set to miss a seventh day of classes Friday as striking teachers and school support staff extend their work stoppage to match the length of the city’s 2012 teachers strike.

Chicago Public Schools sent a notice to parents late Thursday afternoon that school would be canceled the next day with no resolution in sight to the prolonged contract battles with the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73.

As negotiations continue, the unions are planning a Saturday morning labor rally at Union Park on the Near West Side, where various labor groups from around the city are expected to join the CTU and SEIU 73 in solidarity.

The CTU is also looking to hold a House of Delegates meeting on Friday, though the purpose of that potential meeting wasn’t yet clear.

Union chief of staff Jennifer Johnson said Thursday afternoon that “we don’t always just call a house meeting only to call off a strike,” and that the meeting could end up being an update for the 800-plus school-level delegates.

”My sense is if we call a meeting for tomorrow, it will be to update our members on bargaining progress,” Johnson said. “These guys will be the first to know if we think we’re [near an agreement]. I’m not seeing that at this moment.”

Friday also marks pay day for schools employees with workers getting their paychecks for the two weeks prior to this one. Those checks will have two days of pay taken off to account for the first two days of the strike last Thursday and Friday.

The real hurt could come two weeks from Friday when paychecks will be sans at least a week’s worth of pay — or more if the strike stretches into next week.

Nader Issa

3:10 p.m. SEIU president urges Lightfoot to join them at bargaining table

The president of the union representing striking school support staff workers is urging Mayor Lori Lightfoot to go to the bargaining table and personally help end the work stoppage.

In a letter addressed to the mayor Thursday, SEIU Local 73 President Dian Palmer asked Lightfoot to “sacrifice your time and stay at the table until a fair agreement is reached.”

”We have an opportunity to reopen our classrooms and bring our children back to school. We can come to an agreement, one that will give our members, some of the lowest-paid workers in CPS, a pathway out of poverty,” Palmer wrote.

The city and union have only met once since 7,500 support staff workers and 25,000 Chicago Teachers Union members went on strike last Thursday. That one meeting on Monday lasted 12 minutes.

SEIU 73 is asking for pay increases for all workers, but especially low-paid bus aides and special education classroom assistants. The union also wants special ed assistants to no longer be pulled away from their responsibilities for other work, and is demanding the school district end its relationship with Sodexo and Aramark, which manage the work of custodians.

The mayor’s office had not responded to the letter by mid-afternoon Thursday.

Nader Issa

12:37 p.m. Jones parents file complaint against IHSA, CPS to keep cross country team in state playoffs

The parents of 14 cross country runners at Jones College Prep filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit court against the Illinois High School Association and the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday on behalf of all Chicago Public Schools athletes that have missed out on state playoffs as a result of the Chicago Teachers Union strike.

The complaint, filed by attorney Kevin Sterling, claims that removing the athletes from the IHSA state competition is “in violation of the rights conferred on CPS student-athletes to participate in such competitions during the Strike.”

Michael O’Brien has the full story on the state playoff situation. Click here to read it.

11:53 a.m. ‘Every day that goes by there is another cost’ to students and families, Lightfoot says

During an announcement on the expansion of mental health services in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot took some time to address the ongoing bargaining sessions.

“I wouldn’t say bargaining has stalled, but we are certainly not making the level of progress on a day to day that we need to,” Lightfoot said. “We hear every single day the hardship that this [is] causing ... students and families.”

Lightfoot said Chicago Public Schools was recently forced to cancel high school SAT tests, putting certain students at risk of missing scholarship application deadlines.

“Right now normally would be the time when CPS is going full board to make sure that our young people have their applications ready for Nov. 1 so they could apply for federal financial aid,” Lightfoot said. “So every day that goes by there is another cost to our students and their families.”

— Manny Ramos

11:15 a.m. CPS officials optimistic ‘we can get some real strong movement’

While saying the Chicago teachers strike “cannot go into next week,” Chicago Public Schools officials expressed optimism of a breakthrough Thursday morning.

“We are bargaining in good faith, and CPS has given on a lot of key issues,” said LaTanya McDade, CPS’s chief educational officer, talking to reporters outside Malcolm X College.

She said the district is waiting for counterproposals from the CTU team on class size and staffing levels — two major sticking points. If those are favorable, McDade said, “We can get some real strong movement.”

— Stefano Esposito

10:55 a.m. CTU, SEIU plan Saturday rally

The Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 are planning a rally in Union Park Saturday morning.

“As the strike goes into its second week, it is time to show that Chicago is a Union Town and support the efforts of these courageous workers with solidarity,” the Illinois Federation of Teachers wrote on the Facebook event page.

9:46 a.m. CPS: Latest offer to CTU includes full-time nurse, social worker in every school

Chicago Public Schools said its latest offer to the Chicago Teachers Union and members of SEIU Local 73 includes a full-time nurse and social worker in every school, lowering class sizes in “high-need schools” and support for homeless students.

That’s in addition to raising the average teacher’s salary to nearly $100,000 and offering support staff double-digit pay raises, CPS wrote in a Thursday morning Instagram post.

6:53 a.m. Schools staff feeling the pinch

As the days without pay add up for striking teachers, security guards and other school workers, many say they are starting to feel the pinch in their pocketbooks.

Neither CTU nor SEIU Local 73, which represents striking support staff, has a strike fund to cover lost wages. Officials with both unions, though, said Wednesday they are now looking into whether such funds could be set up in short order to provide relief to workers.

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools could stop contributing to teachers’ health insurance premiums as early as next week when the month ends.

Married couples who work for CPS face a double-whammy.

Both Anna Davis, a special ed classroom assistant, and her husband, Jay Davis, a security guard, are on strike. “We’re saving all of our pennies right now,” she said. “We’re still living paycheck to paycheck.”

Mitch Dudek and Matthew Hendrickson talked to teachers about the personal cost of striking.

6:36 a.m. Lightfoot on downtown demonstrations: ‘I don’t embarrass easily’

One week into the teachers strike, 300,000 Chicago Public School students are facing their sixth day out of the classroom. Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has vowed that the city will not bail out the school system to secure a teachers contract.

Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board after her first budget address, Lightfoot said the school district has “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.

The union’s requests, including staffing guarantees and smaller class sizes, have been estimated to cost $2.4 billion over three years. Based on the district’s current offer on the table, about $500 million per year would be added to the district’s costs by the end of a potential five-year deal in 2024. The start of the agreement would be cheaper, but ramped-up staffing over time would make it more expensive. The current CTU contract costs $2.6 billion annually.

Lightfoot declined to predict when the current strike might end or whether it will go longer than the last major walkout in 2012, when teachers picketed for seven school days during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first term.

Asked if she was embarrassed by the downtown rally that could be heard inside City Hall and in surrounding skyscrapers Wednesday, Lightfoot said, “Protest is a part of Chicago history. ... And I don’t embarrass easily.”

Lauren FitzPatrick and Nader Issa have more of Lightfoot’s remarks Wednesday as the strike continues.

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