By Will Foster ’20
Classes and after-school activities will be cancelled for all CPS students on Thursday in anticipation of a teacher strike authorization Wednesday night, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said this morning. She said there is no chance of averting a strike because the city cannot afford the Chicago Teachers Union’s demands.
The decision marked a dramatic and unexpected move in the high-stakes chess match that has been the Chicago Teachers Union’s negotiations with the city over a new contract. Such an acrimonious start to a strike may not bode well for those hoping for a quick end to the walkout. The previous one, in 2012, lasted a week.
Lightfoot was blunt in her morning press conference, saying the union’s demands would cost $2.5 billion that the city can’t afford. “We value the workers … Honoring that value is who I am and what I stand for,” Lightfoot said. “But I also must be responsible for the taxpayers who pay for everything that goes on.”
CTU President Jesse Sharkey announced Tuesday night that the union’s bargaining team “cannot recommend postponing the strike” because Lightfoot’s camp had not provided adequate resources to improve school conditions. A final strike authorization vote by the House of Delegates was scheduled for Wednesday night.
“We’re assuming that the House of Delegates will vote today to move forward with a strike, and as a result all classes and after school activities will be cancelled tomorrow,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said. “This includes team practices and competitions, tutoring, field trips, internships, Parent University activities and all other community activities.”
As Payton teachers returned to school in late August, they continued to work without a contract, as the leaders of their union continued to negotiate with the City of Chicago over a new deal.
The previous deal expired at the end of June. That 2016 agreement itself narrowly averted a strike, as late-night negotiations yielded a deal just minutes before a midnight deadline.
After union leaders rejected a deal proposed by an independent fact-finder, a vote among the union’s entire membership was taken in order to decide whether to authorize a strike. 94% of members voted yes, and the House of Delegates set this Thursday as the walkout date if an agreement was not reached by then.