There’s nothing in the contract about the temperature.


At 6:30 I got up to let Ulysses out. He didn’t want to go.

The thermometer read -12 degrees.

By the way. Now – three hours later – it says  -14 degrees.

Up until yesterday afternoon CPS boss Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who was vacationing in the South Pacific with his family) were saying the schools would be open. Faculty and staff were expected to show up for work. Parents could choose to have their children walk Safe Passage Routes, past their now-closed neighborhood school, in temperatures that are life-threatening.

At a press conference of all City department heads, minus the Mayor and BBB, citizens were told to stay indoors.

When asked where Byrd-Bennett was, a city official claimed she was checking on school boilers. With a straight face.

It took the Chicago Teachers Union and its President Karen Lewis to talk sense and light a match under the Mayor’s butt.

The Chicago Teachers Union today demanded that Chicago Public Schools demonstrate concern for the health and safety of children and staff by closing its 600+ school buildings on Monday, January 6, 2014.

“Right now, CPS and the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management are sending confusing and mixed messages to the public about what to do,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “We believe common sense would dictate that CPS should close schools with at least 10 inches of snow already on the ground and a record-breaking low temperature of -10 degrees forecast for Monday.”

The wind chill factor is expected to hit a low of -45 degrees on Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Thousands of schools and both public and private businesses around the city and state will close their doors tomorrow. The CTU believes that the district should do the same. 

“We expect nothing less when it comes to paying attention to the well-being of the children and teachers we serve,” Lewis said. “In light of the forecast, sending children to school in such dangerous weather conditions shouldn’t even be an option for parents.”

Shortly after the CTU announcement, CPS said schools would be closed today.

Ironically, the common sense of the CTU may have actually done something to save the Mayor’s butt as well as put a fire under it.

Rahm was teetering towards a Michael Bilandic moment. Bilandic replaced the first Mayor Daley following the Mayor’s death (after a coup which removed the African-American Wilson Frost from the fifth floor of City Hall).

Older Chicagoans will tell you about the blizzard of 1979 and Bilandic’s great fail, which included CTA trains not stopping at stations on the west and south side.

Rahm is returning from a family vacation in the sunny South Pacific today.

Had schools been forced to stay open and had any children been hurt or worse as a result of the dangerous weather situation, it would have been on Rahm.

A friend wrote to ask, “What about kids who need a hot breakfast?”

“It’s a good question,” I wrote back. “Or the parents who must must work and have no safe warm place to send their kids. Which shows how ill-prepared the city is to care for it’s neediest. Of course, putting thousands of children, many whom must walk extra long distances to schools out of their neighborhoods because their home school was closed is not a safe alternative. This is on the Mayor. We need a new one.”

This once again shows what the role of a real union is. There’s nothing in the contract about outside temperatures or weather that I know of.

But good sense and civic leadership – the ability to speak on behalf of the city’s poor and working families when nobody else will or can – is what the CTU does.

The entire city is lucky to have it.

8 Replies to “There’s nothing in the contract about the temperature.”

  1. I remember the Bilandic failure. I didn’t know about the CTA stuff until this weekend. Do you know anymore details about that? What was the reasoning or excuse for it happening?

  2. Well, since the children need a hot breakfast and the parents need to work, why not have the schools open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day so we can support children whose parents work various hours, various days a week and those who don’t want to give them breakfast on week-ends, holidays and school vacations. We’ll just become the “parents”!

  3. There is a mandatory life safety/school code or law that says (don’t have it in front of me but as I recall) heat must be 65 or more measured 5 feet high in center of the classroom.
    A lot of school buildings, boilers, heating systems, etc. are low bid/minimum size that are just enough to work in normal winter temperatures and wind factors. You get an arctic blast like we just did and the buildings can’t maintain the required temperature. That played a big factor in a lot of schools closing not only Chicago but statewide and other states as well. There would have been a lot of uproar if they forced the teachers to risk coming in and then find the buildings can’t get above 50 degrees.

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