Chicago teachers, members of the Chicago Teachers Union bargaining unit numbering 25,000, have approved the agreement negotiated between the CTU bargaining team and the Chicago Public Schools board of education.
The vote came two weeks after an eleven day strike that put thousands of teachers on the picket lines and in the streets for nearly daily mass protests.
Late Friday night, with 80% of the vote counted from 80% of the schools, votes for approval were running at 81%.
I found no information on what schools the vote was coming from or whether that information will be made available later.
79% approved the deal after the seven-day 2012 strike. The 2016 CBA received a 72% vote of approval.
Teachers have reason to be proud of their unity and militancy during the bargaining.
Members will receive a 16 percent hike over the five year length of the agreement. That is a long time compared to most contracts, and to the 3-year deal that the CTU wanted.
There will be no increases in health care costs for the first three years, a quarter-percent increase in the fourth year and a half-percent increase in the fifth year.
A disappointment for many was the failure to add to elementary teachers prep time and the dispersal of veteran pay must still be negotiated.
Gains in the contractual numbers of students in a class – a central demand of the CTU – seems limited. A teacher may appeal for a remedy to a newly constituted Joint Class Size Assessment Council, consisting of six members appointed by the district and six by the union. The council will determine if, and what, action is to be taken.
Class size and staffing were huge issues in the strike. The union demanded that class sizes and staffing numbers be put in writing in the contract.
What was important for the union was that the numbers and the procedures for remedy be written into the contract which would allow them to be grieved if the numbers and process for remediation were violated.
Now the numbers and remedy are in writing in the collective bargaining agreement.
Still, the numbers themselves remain high.
As for staffing, the union won 209 additional social workers and 250 additional nurses over the duration of the contract.
CPS must now add an additional 44 social workers and 55 nurses next year above what the district had already budgeted.
There was no agreement to add school librarians.
The new contract designates funds to hire community representatives at schools with large numbers of homeless students.
A stipend will also be available for some schools to hire a Students in Temporary Living Situation (STLS) Liaison. Together, the representative and liaison will ensure homeless students are attending class, have transit passes, and are aware of neighborhood resources.
There were other improvements for teachers in the agreement as well.
Some will continue to argue over who won, the CTU or Mayor Lightfoot. Or whether an 11-day strike significantly improved the agreement over what Mayor Lightfoot and the CPS board offered before the walkout.
As someone who has some experience in bargaining teacher union contracts, I think the fundamental issue is whether this contract is an improvement over the previous one. In this case, it appears the members believe it is and their vote is what matters most.
What I am most pleased about is that unlike in a growing number of right to work states, Chicago public school union teachers had the right to bargain it and to vote on their agreement.
That is no small thing.