Chicago Teachers Vote To Return To Work
CHICAGO (CNN) – Hundreds of thousands of Chicago schoolchildren will return to class Wednesday after the teachers union voted to suspend its strike.
About 800 union officers and delegates met for just over two hours before there was an overwhelming voice vote to suspend the walkout, according to delegates who attended the meeting.
The contract agreement with the school system still needs to be ratified by the more than 29,000 teachers and support staff who are members of the union.
Union President Karen Lewis said before the meeting that she was hoping teachers and support staff would go back to work soon.
“Well, I think it is the best deal we could get at this moment in time,” she said.
Parents and city officials will be happy to send about 350,000 children back to class.
Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest U.S. school system, and the union struck a tentative bargain Friday afternoon. But on Sunday, union members decided to continue the walkout while they reviewed the proposal.
“We have 26,000 teachers, and they’re all able to read this document and take some time to discuss its merits or its deficiencies, and that’s going to happen today,” union spokesman Jackson Potter said Sunday. “We’re just asking people to be patient and let the process run its course.”
Q&A: What’s behind the Chicago teachers’ strike?
The school system went to court Monday morning, arguing that the walkout violates Illinois labor laws.
“State law expressly prohibits the CTU from striking over non-economic issues, such as layoff and recall policies, teacher evaluations, class sizes and the length of the school day and year,” the district said in a statement. “The CTU’s repeated statements and recent advertising campaign have made clear that these are exactly the subjects over which the CTU is striking.”
The strike also prevents “critical educational and social services, including meals for students who otherwise may not receive proper nutrition, a safe environment during school hours and critical services for students who have special needs,” the district continued.
The union responded to the filing Monday by saying it “appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor.”
“This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel’s bullying behavior toward public school educators,” the union said.
Teachers walked off the job September 10, objecting to a longer school day, evaluations tied to student performance and job losses from school closings. Parents have juggled their families’ schedules for more than a week to make sure their children are attended to while schools are closed.
This contract calls for longer school days for elementary and high school-age students, 10 more “instructional days” each school year and a single calendar for the entire school system, as opposed to the two schedules now in place, depending on the school.
The pay structure would change with a 3% pay increase for the first year of the contract, 2% for the second year and 2% for the third year. If a trigger extends the contract to four years, teachers will get a 3% pay increase. Union members would no longer be compensated for unused personal days, health insurance contribution rates would be frozen, and the “enhanced pension program” would be eliminated.
As is, the median base salary for teachers in the Chicago public schools in 2011 was $67,974, according to the system’s annual financial report.
CNN’s Kyung Lah reported from Chicago and Greg Botelho from Atlanta. CNN’s Ted Rowlands, Chris Welch, Katherine Wojtecki and Ed Payne also contributed to this report.
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