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CPS workers mad they’re still waiting to see raises won during strike: ‘Pay up. It’s time’

SEIU Local 73 members will get part of their pay bumps, retroactive to July 2018, in their checks Friday. When they will get the rest of the money owed to them is unknown.

chicago teachers strike
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Local 73 rally at South Michigan Ave. on Friday, October 25.
Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

A month and a half after they ended their strike against Chicago Public Schools, 7,500 school support staff workers are finally getting some of their back pay Friday.

But the raises SEIU Local 73 members will see on their checks this week are only partly easing the frustration for the low-paid workers who went more than a week without pay and have yet to reap the benefits — making it harder to pay bills or buy holiday gifts.

The support staff workers repped by SEIU will see 3% raises in their checks Friday retroactive to when their previous contract expired in July 2018. That’ll account for the pay bumps they agreed to for the first year of their contract.

SEIU and Chicago Teachers Union members are also owed another 3% raise retroactive to July 1 of this year — the second year of the new SEIU deal and the first of the CTU contract, which expired this summer.

Until Thursday, neither union knew when that back pay might come. But at a meeting between CPS and union officials Thursday, the district agreed to add that retroactive pay on workers' Feb. 28 checks.

The meeting was the first big get-together between top CTU and CPS officials since contract negotiations ended Oct. 31. Several other loose ends were broached, including how to dole out agreed-upon raises for veteran teachers and paraprofessionals, job descriptions for some new positions and details for new joint committees.

The Board of Education approved the deals with both unions on Nov. 20.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in an emailed statement that “the district’s priority is to ensure accuracy in implementing complex pay changes and it is working diligently to build and test new salary tables in our data systems to ensure accuracy."

The district pointed out that part of the agreement between CPS and SEIU 73 was that bus aides — the lowest-paid CPS employees and some of the lowest-earners in the city — received $250 bonus checks when the deal was signed in November.

Nonetheless, SEIU 73 Executive Vice President Science Meles said members were “pissed off” that they wouldn't see their full negotiated raises for another couple months.

Meles acknowledged that the complexity of the new pay structure was bound to cause delays because new pay groups were made for the first time. The union just didn’t expect it to take so long.

“Members don’t understand it, and quite frankly we don’t either,” Meles said. “They should figure it out. Pay up. It’s time.”

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates, who posted her frustrations all week on Twitter, also said she understood going in that it could take a while for the pay system to get figured out — in 2012, she said, members didn’t get paid for three months after the agreement. Her agitation had more to do with CPS taking as long as it did to lay out a clear timeline for when people might get their money.

“The holidays are coming up,” she said. “Going on strike was a sacrifice for our low-wage members and they especially feel it. We’re just frustrated.”