CTU members threaten strike at 5 more charter schools

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Chicago Teachers Union members rally Wednesday outside the Instituto del Progreso Latino, 2520 S. Western Ave. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

For the third time this school year, teachers could soon walk off the job at a handful of Chicago charter schools.

Chicago Teachers Union leaders announced Wednesday afternoon that members voted overwhelmingly to authorize strikes at five privately managed, publicly funded schools dotted across the South and West sides: Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, Instituto Justice Leadership Academy, Chicago High School for the Arts, Latino Youth High School and Youth Connection Leadership Academy.

CTU charter division chair Chris Baehrend said educators are bidding for higher wages, adequate staffing, pensions and sanctuary for immigrant students with protections against school cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

And as in Chicago’s two previous charter strikes, union members accuse network operators of diverting an inordinate percent of public dollars away from classrooms and into executive salaries.

“We say enough with organizations opening up charter schools and not putting in the resources necessary for an adequate education,” IJLA teacher Gema Gaete said in a rally outside the Instituto del Progreso Latino, the organization that manages IHSCA and IJLA.

Instituto issued a statement saying they were “disappointed” in the vote, citing progress made at the bargaining table since October.

“We are willing to work around the clock to come to an agreement that is fair and equitable for teachers and staff while also being financially sustainable for our schools in advance of a potential strike,” the charter manager said.

Instituto leaders also suggested that “concerns were shared about ballot tampering that have led us to question the legitimacy of the results of the vote” — a claim flatly denied by union members who called it “preposterous.”

The strike authorization vote doesn’t mean a work stoppage is imminent. Barring any breakthroughs in negotiations, union leaders are expected to announce strike dates later this month.

Close to 1,800 students could be affected if the roughly 130 educators picket at all five charter schools.

MORE: Student-led demonstration at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy

A potential work stoppage would be the latest in a turbulent five months for organized labor in Chicago.

America’s first-ever charter teacher strike was staged in December by Acero network educators and lasted four days. Chicago International Charter School teachers then picketed for nine days in February.

Additionally, UIC graduate workers went on strike for about two weeks before ratifying a new deal earlier this week, while Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians remain on strike in their fight for better pay and retirement benefits.

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