In what has become a hallmark of the fighting spirit of the Chicago Teachers Union and their leadership, a huge rally is planned tonight at the historic Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University. The Auditorium holds over 4,000, and with only CTU members allowed in, thousands more supporters are expected to gather outside.
CTU leaders also announced a strike authorization vote will be taken in the next few weeks.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll says a strike authorization vote is premature. CPS and CTU are engaged in a process called “fact-finding,” which means an arbitrator is considering CPS and CTU proposals. Both sides had to agree on the arbitrator. The arbitrator will issue a final report on July 15 and then the union and CPS have 15 days to respond to the report. Then, they have to wait 30 days for a cooling-off period.
But CTU VP Jeff Sharkey points out that a strike authorization vote is both legally necessary and valuable tactically.
But Sharkey says there’s good reason to take a vote over the next few weeks. Union leaders do not want to hold a strike authorization vote during the summer, when teachers are dispersed. They also don’t want to wait until the beginning of the next school year, hoping to have a contract in place by the fall when school starts.
Once the next school year starts, things like the longer school day will be in place, making it harder for the union to negotiate over pay for the longer day, Sharkey says.
While some argue that a strike vote is risky as a result of the 75% yes vote that Senate Bill 7 requires, recent unofficial votes taken across the city have come in with 90% of the teachers voting in favor of a strike if needed.
I know from my own experience as a union president that the CTU would not take a strike authorization vote unless they knew the outcome ahead of time.