Chicago Teachers Union rallies downtown; contract talks continue as strike date nears

In advance of Monday’s downtown rally and the potential for a Thursday strike, the mayor’s administration took steps to make certain that the right to protest peacefully was protected.

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Chicago Teachers Union members gather Monday at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.

Chicago Teachers Union members gather Monday at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The city and the Chicago Teachers Union returned to the bargaining table Monday as teachers gathered for a downtown rally and a Thursday strike deadline drew closer.

Hundreds of teachers gathered in the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St; CPS workers had the day off in observance of Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, in a video posted to Twitter Monday afternoon, said she hoped the two sides could use Monday’s negotiations to “build on the progress that we’ve made and come together for the good of our teachers, our students and our city.”

Her message struck a conciliatory tone following a rocky 24 hours over the weekend that saw the two sides attack each other after an “angry” bargaining session Friday, then regroup for a “productive” meeting Saturday.

Chicago teachers rally downtown on Monday.

Chicago teachers rally downtown on Monday; union members have voted to go on strike Thursday if they don’t have a deal.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The mayor also reaffirmed her belief that the city’s latest counter-proposal — the one on Friday that the union called “insulting” — was fair and worthy of an agreement.

“Everything we’ve put on the table is grounded in our fundamental respect for the dignity of teachers and school staff,” the mayor said. ”And to all who will be taking part in today’s rally, I want you to know that we hear you. And I respect what you stand for.”

In advance of Monday’s downtown rally and the potential for a Thursday strike, the mayor’s administration took steps to make certain that the right to protest peacefully is protected.

On Sunday, Lightfoot’s chief of staff Maurice Classen wrote a letter to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson urging the superintendent to send a so-called “PAX message” to the troops highlighting the “importance” of abiding by general orders that apply to peaceful protests and the exercise of First Amendment rights.

Classen also asked that those general orders and CPD’s “Guide to Demonstrations, protests and First Amendment Issues” be read aloud at roll calls “for the entirety of this week.”

“It is of paramount importance that the city and its peace officers do everything practicable to protect the rights of CTU and SEIU members to express their opinions within the boundaries of the law,” Classen wrote in the letter, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The Mayor believes strongly in the value of these public expressions of opinion and wants to ensure that no issues arise because of these protests.”

Despite, what he called “continuing progress” at the bargaining table, Classen said a strike by “one or more of these unions…remains a significant possibility.”

“The Mayor and I remain optimistic that we can resolve each of these labor negotiations before” Thursday’s deadline, Classen wrote.

“Regardless, [the downtown] rally—and the potential strikes-- represent an opportunity for Chicagoans to see how we can use protests and the expression of First Amendment rights to openly discuss and resolve our differences.”

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