Chicago teachers union approves the reopening plan.

The need to reopen schools safely is nearly universally agreed upon.

“Safely” being the operative word.

But these are uncharted waters and I don’t envy teacher unions in districts across the country as they try to represent the safety concerns of educators, students and their families.

And whatever the particulars are here in Chicago – which includes a very strained relationship between the CTU and Mayor Lightfoot going back to the last election – the issue has created difficult conversations between every teacher union and board or mayor.

Over the weekend the Mayor announced a tentative agreement with the CTU on reopening. The CTU rejected the term “tentative agreement”, although from my experience that is what it was. The executive team presented the terms to the House of Delegates which voted to send it on to the membership for a vote.

The vote of the House of Delegates was 85% to send it on to the rank and file.

Yesterday 67.5% of the voting CTU members voted to approve the agreement.

It seems to me, given the pandemic and the politics, in Chicago the process is working as it should.

Decisions made about return to school buildings must include teachers and the unions that represent us through the process of collective bargaining. It can’t just be decided on by the leaders. Those who do the teaching must have the final say.

I have seen this referred to as hyper-democratic. There’s nothing hyper democratic about members getting to decide.

It’s just plain old democracy.

Some unions only have the leaders decide. That is decidedly undemocratic.

I was frankly surprised to hear CTU leaders refer to the agreement as a disgrace after the agreement was approved by the vote of the members.

Why present an agreement for a vote that the leaders thought was a disgrace? Bargaining represents a compromise but should always be the best that the union thinks they can achieve.

I guess I am more used to having union leaders call losses wins rather than calling wins losses.

Others seem to think that the agreement between CTU and CPS could be a national model for reopening.

Chicago ceded significant ground to the union on a number of issues, perhaps most notably by delaying the reopening for most elementary students by a month or longer to allow more teachers and staff to get vaccinated. It also committed to weekly vaccine dose shipments, beefed up its school testing plan and gave schools more flexibility to accommodate employees who are not ready to return to school buildings. 

The union made some concessions as well, backing off from a stance that all school staff are fully vaccinated before campuses reopen — a hard line some unions in California and elsewhere have continued to embrace.

Anyway, Chicago remains a union town and agreements between labor and management still must get resolved through a process of collective bargaining.

Whether it works to keep teachers, students and families safe is another matter.

I sincerely hope so.

We’ve never been here. We’ve never had to bargain in response to a global pandemic before.

2 thoughts on “Chicago teachers union approves the reopening plan.

  1. Not sure it’s a national model if the CTU leadership deems it a “disgrace”. Perhaps Louisville can come up with less of a disgrace. ________________________________

  2. I’m glad to hear that the CTU leaders–& members (I’d like to see critics sit out in snow & freezing/below freezing temps conducting remote lessons or marching w/signs) fought so hard to make sure the right thing (as right as possible in these unprecedented times) was done. It is/was hard-won, and a fitting tribute to Karen Lewis (o.b.m.).
    I know–to the readers of this blog–this is preaching to the choir–but so many CP Schools are old & it’s hard to imagine the HVAC that is required to keep covid out of the air. Not to mention shared bathrooms, many of which probably have cold water (esp. in this weather), & all of the appropriate sanitation required. (Makes me think of the Aegean Stables…calling Hercules.) I compare this to the horrendous situation in neighboring Iowa, where guv. dim reynolds refused to give school districts waivers beyond a very short time, even though covid positivity was rampant there, Now she (???–I feel that “she” may be an it, like 45–apparently no heart, no soul, no concern for IA constituents. My niece is a 1st Grade teacher in IA City. Who is responsible for cleaning at the end of the day? You guessed it–the teachers. I don’t know how much time she spends every day after classes, sanitizing desks & wiping off surfaces (too much). She also has a student who does NOT keep his mask on, & nothing has been done about this. (Reynolds also, recently, repealed an indoor mask mandate, & opened bars, restaurants, etc. more widely, w/o restrictions {although she had a press conference today–haven’t heard it yet}.)

    &–I agree, Fred (& Randy). I don’t know why this is seen by CTU leaders as a “disgrace.” It may be the animosity they have for Mayor Lightfoot (I think they carry a grudge, & too far. Still angry about Preckwinkle may be part of it, but I can’t imagine that she would have done much differently–except that Sharkey & Davis Gates would have, of course, have a MUCH friendlier relationship w/her!).

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