Graphic: Ellen Gradman.
The Chicago Teachers Union has called for a large turnout on Thursday of teachers, parents and community members to demonstrate their outrage over the move by CPS CEO Forrres Clayfool to shred the collective bargaining process. Clayfool is acting unilaterally, promising to layoff hundreds, maybe thousands, of staff and to cut contractual compensation.
Prior to the vote of the bargaining team to reject the last board offer on Monday, some self-proclaimed critics of little substance attacked Karen Lewis and the CTU leadership team for selling-out the membership by accepting a tentative agreement. Jumping the gun before the bargaining team or the membership even had a chance to see what was offered seemed very divisive to me.
There was no TA.
Chicago Teacher’s Union VP Jesse Sharkey appeared on Chicago Tonight and discussed the current situation.
On the bargaining unit’s rejection of what was initially described as a “serious offer”
“It was never a tentative agreement,” Sharkey said. “We deliberated for more than 40 hours. There are a number of things that are in this offer that people took very seriously and as a sign of progress. But in the end, we just can’t trust the district to live up to a series of promises that they made.”
On the state of continued negotiations
“We had a brief meeting this morning. Kind of a gut-check,” Sharkey said. “Today was a pretty tense day, but we wanted to reaffirm the commitment. We have a serious bargaining relationship with the board, and we’ve been through hard times before–there was a strike in 2012–and we’ve never stopped meeting. So we’re going to keep doing that. We’re going to keep working and try to avoid a shutdown of the district, a strike. We’re going to try to get an agreement.”
On whether he’d characterize proposed cuts announced today by CPS as a speed bump or, in the words of CTU President Karen Lewis, an “act of war”
“It’s difficult to tell, to answer your question,” Sharkey said. “Trust is one of these things that’s a little bit nebulous. CTU members feel like the cuts that were in this offer were very real, very concrete, contractually enforceable. But then there’s promises which we didn’t feel were very real. For example, we have a charter school cap on board-opened charters. But what about the fact that the state can open an unlimited number of charters? I think if we can find some way of doing some political trust, and have the district follow through on, say, commitments to increase revenue, that would be a step in the right direction.”
On the proposed state takeover of CPS
“I think this is part of Rauner’s Turnaround agenda; I think he’s bringing it up for political reasons that are sufficient to him. But when he says, ‘Let me in there, I’ll solve the teachers union contract’ … That’s a joke. He hasn’t solved the AFSCME contract, which is one where he has some direct authority and involvement. I don’t think Rauner has any business coming in and trying to run public schools in Chicago. I think we should have Democratic school governance in the city. Rauner’s threats are a distraction. He should pass a budget. That would help.”
Phil Cantor, Chicago teacher and CTU member explains why the CTU doesn’t have a contract:
Two days ago I posed the question, “Does CPS have a contract?” The answer is clearly a strong “NO.” The Chicago Teachers Union 40 person Big Bargaining Team unanimously rejected the tentative agreement that CPS had proposed.
The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.
CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?
There were good things in the contract proposal; things for which our bargaining team has been fighting for over a year. There was some movement on issues like standardized testing, teacher paperwork, REACH evaluation and other non-monetary concessions by CPS. This is good. These things are not small. These matter to our students and to our ability to do our jobs.
But in addition to the forced retirement/self destruct clause there was one other factor that made it impossible for the CTU teachers, clinicians and PSRPs on the bargaining team to give this proposal a thumbs up. The lack of trust we have for Rahm, Rauner and CPS really sank the deal. As Reagan said about nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviet Union: “Trust but verify.”
All out for the CTU on Thursday!