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CPS asks teachers union for binding arbitration to avoid strike

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool has asked the Chicago Teachers Union to avoid a strike by going to binding arbitration. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

With the Chicago Teachers Union already declaring the “clock is ticking” toward a strike, Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday asked the union to submit to binding arbitration — a request the union almost immediately branded a “publicity stunt.”

Over the weekend, the union had rejected a fact-finder’s report that had sided with CPS on all the significant economic items in the last contract offer from the school district. That rejection started a 30-day cooling-off period required before teachers can strike.

“We are disappointed that the CTU decided to reject the Fact Finder’s recommendation,” begins the letter to Karen Lewis, president of the CTU, from Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

“In our view a strike whether in May or in August or in September, would be devastating to our students and parents. Further, we are at a loss as to how a strike would solve or even advance a solution to the considerable challenges that CPS faces. The best course is for CPS and CTU to join together in Springfield for long term sustainable funding for our schools. A strike is counterproductive and would only fuel the anti-CPS forces in Springfield,” the letter continues.

“To avoid disruption to our schools and to advance our partnership in Springfield, we are asking that CTU agree to final and binding interest arbitration in lieu of a strike.”

The letter notes binding arbitration has been used for police and fire contracts in the past, and asks for Lewis’ response by Wednesday, April 27.

Lewis already was scheduled to address the City Club of Chicago on Wednesday afternoon – which the union noted in its response.

“This so-called request for arbitration is a CPS publicity stunt before President Lewis’ City Club speech today at noon,” union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in an emailed statement.

“We have hundreds of members in Springfield right now fighting for progressive revenue and an end to the budget stalemate. While Karen is delivering her speech at noon, our members will be marching on the governor’s mansion in Springfield. CTU does not have binding interest arbitration because we choose to negotiate and write our own contracts — plus police and fire, as he [Claypool] referenced, cannot strike,” the statement continued.

“We can’t say we’re interested in this until we know the rules of arbitration and under what terms. Binding arbitration puts our fate in the hand of a single person rather than our nearly 30,000 rank and file members.”

CPS Arbitration Request