City won’t give in to union in fight over veteran teacher pay, mayor says

“We don’t have a problem,” Lightfoot said Friday. “I don’t want to get into negotiating it. But, we were very, very clear. We have a lot of witnesses.”

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said a congestion fee could be implemented to raise money while also reducing traffic and pollution.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot was drawn back into an argument with the Chicago Teachers Union Friday over how to reward veteran teachers, an issue that was only partially resolved at the end of last fall’s teachers strike.

Lightfoot told reporters at City Hall she feels “very, very confident about our position” that $25 million earmarked in the new teachers contract for veteran teachers will be doled out in the form of bonuses — not as a pay raise as the union wants.

“We don’t have a problem,” the mayor said. “I don’t want to get into negotiating it. But we were very, very clear. We have a lot of witnesses.”

The dispute isn’t over the amount of money to doled over the life of the five-year contract— both sides agree that their deal includes $25 million the school district’s 10,000 most experienced and longest-serving teachers.

But that dollar amount, according to CPS and city officials, was the extent of the agreement reached at the time, and the two sides only agreed to work out the rest of the details later.

The CTU, however, says the agreement dictated that the money would go into base pay raises, and all that was left to be negotiated after the strike ended was what years the raises would go into affect during a teacher’s career.

Under the union interpretation, the payments would compound and the district would ultimately be on the hook to continue paying the raises after the contract expired in five years, while if the money are bonuses, the district wouldn’t be.

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates responded to Lightfoot Friday, saying “this wouldn’t be the first time that the mayor has gotten something wrong and has misunderstood collective bargaining.”

“We experienced 11 days of that already,” Davis Gates said.

Union leaders have said the raises are necessary to retain some of the district’s most loyal employees.

“Our veteran educators hold school communities in stable spaces because they’re experienced and they understand teaching and learning,” she said. “If we cannot as society provide them with the type of respect, dignity and compensation that speaks to their level of professionalism and expertise, then we we’re in trouble as a school district.”

Lightfoot said she wouldn’t “get into the particulars” of the debate over whether the money will be paid out as a bonus or pay raise and would leave that to CPS officials, but said she was “very, very confident in our position.”

The mayor also disputed Sun-Times reporting that she was in the room when the partial deal on veteran teacher pay was reached.

“Frankly, the reporting that I’ve seen on this issue hasn’t been accurate. I was not in the room when this happened,” the mayor said. “This was something that was done at the bargaining table. There’s a lot of witnesses on our side who can attest to what happened. And I’m confident that, ultimately, we will prevail.”

The Sun-Times reported Monday that the agreement on the $25 million was reached at a City Hall meeting in late October between Lightfoot, schools chief Janice Jackson and top union leaders. After that meeting, Lightfoot had said union leaders raised six issues that wanted addressed for them to end the strike, and she said she addressed all six of them.

On Friday, Davis Gates disputed the mayor’s contention that she wasn’t present when the agreement was made.

“I was [there], and I was looking right at her when she said it,” Davis Gates said.

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