What better day to take a personal day than May Day?

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Monday is May Day. Chicago is where it started.

In recent years our May Day march has focused on immigrant rights. Chicago is a city of immigrants. We are a proud sanctuary city.

And a union town.

The Chicago Teachers Union is among our most militant labor organizations. In response to the imposition of furlough days and a threat to close schools weeks early, the CTU had considered calling a one-day strike on May 1st.

But it has changed its plans.

Naturally, the CTU has endorsed the May Day immigrant rights march.

Monday is a scheduled work day at CPS. So CPS CEO Forrest Claypool went to the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board and asked them to issue an injunction against teachers taking a personal day on Monday.

The IELRB gave him the injunction

Now, the collective bargaining agreement between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union is pretty specific about the use of personal days.

It says they can be used for personal business.

I remember back to my days as a local union president. (“Oh, dad. Not another one of your ‘back-in-the-days’ stories.”)

Use of personal days once was an issue. Our collective bargaining language was also clear. Members could take a personal day for business they could not schedule outside of working hours. We bargained three personal days a year. Those days converted to accumulated sick days if they weren’t used in the year.

One year, principals starting demanding that our members give two days notice if they were planning to use a personal day and provide the reason they were taking one.

I picked up the phone and called the superintendent.

“Cite the page in the contract,” I said.

The dirty little secret about contracts is that administrators rarely have read it and don’t know what’s in it. They referred to it as “your contract” even though it was mutually bargained and the board president’s signature is right there on the bottom next to the union president’s signature.

I carried my contract around with me and into every meeting with an administrator and frequently laid it on a principal’s desk and said, “cite the page in the contract.” Most of the time they had no idea.

On Monday, members of the CTU who choose to will be marching for immigrant rights as part of May Day in Chicago.

IELRB or no IELRB.

After all, what’s more personal to a union teacher than May Day in Chicago?

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