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CTU practice strike vote: 97 percent say walk out

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis | Sun-Times file photo

If a strike vote were held tomorrow, the Chicago Teachers Union would likely walk off the job, the union reported Monday in preliminary results of a practice strike vote taken late last week.

About 97 percent of members voting — with 95 percent participation among the 27,000 CTU members casting ballots in the mock vote last Thursday — said to strike.

“We are very pleased and not at all surprised by what we’ve learned,” CTU spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in an email Monday. She called the poll an “internal union exercise” that was “designed to test the CTU’s organizational bandwidth.” She added that final analysis was still being prepared.

State law was changed in recent years to require a 75 percent threshold to authorize a strike. That same law also requires the parties to go through several more steps before the union could walk out, which could still take months.

In 2012, about 90 percent of members voted to walk off the job in the city’s first strike in a generation, led by Karen Lewis who was one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fiercest adversaries. Should the ongoing negotiations break down, teachers could hand Emanuel his second strike in four years.

CPS is still begging Springfield for help to close a $480 million gap in its operating budget stemming from years of unpaid pension obligations. That help has not been forthcoming. CEO Forrest Claypool has called on parents to rally their legislators and warned of devastating layoffs by February if the money doesn’t come.

“For the sake of our children’s education and our teachers’ jobs, we are committed to working toward a solution to the budget crisis facing CPS, and we hope that the CTU will join us in Springfield to push for fair treatment

for Chicago’s children, instead of threatening a strike,” CPS said in a statement late Monday.

The CTU’s contract expired on June 30. Negotiations have been ongoing with the assistance of a mediator.

Lewis advised her members last week to start saving up to a quarter of their paychecks now for a possible strike.