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Labor board votes to stop CTU from future ‘illegal’ strikes

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool at the Chicago Board of Education meeting last month. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The state’s Education Labor Relations Board on Thursday ruled in favor of the Chicago Board of Education in its complaint about the Chicago Teachers Union’s April 1 walkout, which the school district deemed “illegal.”

The ruling, however, won’t make a dent in the union’s threat to strike as soon as May 16 should the two sides not come to a contract agreement. The labor board’s decision references actions or strikes completed before a fact-finding report. That has now happened in the contract dispute between CTU and CPS. After it was released Saturday, CTU shot it down almost immediately.

The 4-1 ruling on Thursday by the labor board means the union is barred from future strikes before ompleting the fact-finding process. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool filed the complaint after teachers staged a massive walk-out on April 1, which also involved a downtown rally.

Claypool had always called the April 1 action “illegal.”

The labor board will now request that the Illinois Attorney General take the matter to court.

Claypool called the ruling “important” and said it should stop the union from “striking illegally whenever they want.”

“The labor board’s important ruling gives Chicago families more certainty that the CTU leadership cannot strike illegally whenever they want, and we are gratified that the board has taken a major step toward injunctive relief against future strikes,” Claypool said in a statement.

Claypool also urged the union to return to the bargaining table “to prevent a strike and the disruption that it would create for Chicago’s students.”

Claypool pushed for the union to reconsider the fact-finder’s recommendations.

The union shot back on Thursday, calling the board “the governor’s labor board” — although three of the five members were appointed by Democratic governors.

“The governor’s labor board is prosecuting its war on workers,” the CTU said in a statement.

The union noted board member Lynne Sered dissented and reminded the board that in seeking an injunction against the CTU, the board was “ignoring decades of its own legal precedents.”

On Saturday, CTU President Karen Lewis said “the clock has started” counting down to a possible teachers strike after the union rejected the recommendations by the fact-finder whose job was to help resolve the ongoing contract dispute.

There’s now a required “cooling-off period.” The earliest the union could strike is May 16.

State law requires that a fact-finder weigh in before teachers could walk off the job. But arbiter Steven Bierig’s report sided with CPS on all key issues, including the phaseout of a pension pickup, a four-year contract instead of the two-year deal the union wants and the board’s health care proposal.

IELRB Ruling