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CTU Strike Drags Into Second Week, With No End in Sight

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Payton members of CTU and SEIU marched to Lake Shore Drive today as part of Day 3 of the strike. (Photos courtesy of former Paw Print editor-in-chief Matthew Mata)

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By Will Foster ’20

Payton members of the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union marched to Lake Shore Drive today as part of day three of their ongoing strike.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot implored CTU President Jesse Sharkey to end the strike while bargaining continues. In a letter to Sharkey, Lightfoot (along with CPS CEO Janice Jackson) wrote that “[w]hile we have made great progress at the bargaining table, it is unclear whether we can reach an agreement today given the current pace.” (A PDF of the letter is available here, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.)

“[W]e hope you see how necessary it is to reopen schools at this time,” the letter continued, citing seniors’ concerns about college applications, working parents’ struggles to arrange childcare, and football teams’ playoff hopes, among other factors.

As for sports, “The Simeon football team, one of the top programs in Illinois, will be ineligible for the state playoffs if the strike is not resolved by Tuesday,” Lightfoot and Jackson wrote. “Our girls tennis teams were forced to forfeit every match in the state tournament this weekend. Our boys soccer teams, including Solorio High School, looking for its second championship in three years, were unable to participate in the state playoffs.”

“Given where we are in negotiations, continuing this hardship is unnecessary,” Lightfoot and Jackson added. “In the past few days, our bargaining teams have made progress on many issues that you have identified as important to your membership. You have told us and the public that the most essential issues to resolve in order to reach an overall agreement are class size and staffing. And what we repeatedly heard from you was this: ‘Put it in writing.’ We have done that. We put commitments in writing on Thursday and Friday through counteroffers to lower primary grade class sizes in high-poverty schools, and to provide every school with at least one nurse and one social worker within five years.”

On Twitter, the union called the the mayor’s request “insulting,” hammering her and CPS for purportedly “[doing] nothing for months” after CTU submitted contract proposals.

But at an afternoon press conference, Lightfoot reiterated her position that the city “frankly can’t afford” the CTU’s demands, according to a reporter for Crain’s Chicago.  “Beyond what we put on the table, there is simply no more money,” she added. Using money planned for Lincoln Yards development is unrealistic, Lightfoot asserted: “[It] doesn’t work that way … We can only agree to what we can afford.”

Lightfoot inherited a public school system in massive debt. CPS has $8.4 billion in long-term debt, according to WBEZ, with the district forced to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars each year to pay for teacher pensions.

The current teacher and staff strike began last Thursday. The CTU is bargaining for both more money for schools throughout the city (some of which are drastically under-resourced) and better compensation for teachers.

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