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City Colleges faculty, staff announce strike date

Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago in Uptown. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago in Uptown. | Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

About 2,000 unionized faculty and professional staff members at the City Colleges of Chicago say they’ll go on strike Feb. 4 if they don’t reach new contract agreements.

Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600 announced the strike date on Tuesday, as negotiations have stalled since last April on its two separate contracts with the community college system: one for full-time, non-adjunct professors, and another for professional staff including college advisers, lab coordinators and note-takers.

The union says CCC leaders are trying to eliminate a health insurance benefit for new hires that currently allows for 10 years of coverage upon retirement, a stipulation deemed “unworkable” by Local 1600 president Tony Johnston.

Pay raises, including yearly salary steps and education lanes for professors, are also at issue.

“We are looking to get a readjustment. There is a lot of wage and salary disparity,” Johnston said.

A City Colleges spokeswoman said officials hope to reach an agreement in negotiations the benefit staff and students.

“City Colleges values the faculty and staff who have dedicated themselves to providing Chicago residents with the high-quality 21st century education they deserve,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “We will continue to meet at the bargaining table with the Cook County College Teachers Union as we work toward contracts that recognize the contributions of our educators and professional staff, and support the best interest of City Colleges’ hard-working students.”

The union also wants more librarians, fewer classes taught by adjunct professors and smaller lab classes.

They also are calling for “shared governance” in the form of an advisory council of faculty and staff to review programming and curriculum changes being decided by the board of trustees, all of whom are mayoral appointees.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that the failed reinvention policies of the past don’t come back,” Johnston said, referring to past program consolidations across the seven colleges and five satellite campuses.

Negotiations have been ongoing since last April, with the contracts expiring in July and union members voting to authorize a strike in December.

Union members plan to rally at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters, 1901 W. Carroll Ave.

Educators last went on strike at City Colleges for three weeks in 2004, eventually landing raises totaling 14 percent over four years.

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