Governor Pritzker signs legislation expanding teachers’ bargaining rights.

This past week Governor Pritzker signed legislation expanding the bargaining rights of the Chicago Teachers Union.

It was a big win, the first significant victory in the fight for expanded collective bargaining rights since the Illinois legislature’s phony 1995 reforms under Governor Jim Edgar.

That year the legislature and Edgar, with the support of the state’s teacher unions, created the disastrous pension ramp which led to the current pension debt crisis.

It also limited the subjects of mandatory bargaining between the Chicago School Board and the union and solidified Mayor Daley’s mayoral control of the school board.

Mandatory subjects of bargaining must be negotiated and can be the subject of strike action.

Permissive subjects of bargaining cannot be subject to a strike and therefore management cannot be forced to negotiate them.

The 1995 reforms expanded the areas of permissive bargaining and undermined union bargaining rights.

The restrictions to mandatory bargaining were solidified in the reforms of 2011 and SB7.

SB7 was supported by the IEA, the IFT and, at first, the CTU, and was terrible in several ways.

It required the CTU to have 75% membership approval for any strike action.

It created teacher evaluation criteria that tied teacher performance reviews to student test scores.

And it reinforced the limits on mandatory subjects of Chicago Teacher Union bargaining to essentially salary and benefits.

When CTU members heard what SB7 meant, they directed the newly elected CORE leadership to reverse the CTU position of support, which it did.

The Chicago Teachers Union ultimately opposed SB7, but it was too late.

Governor Pritzker has now approved a bill passed last year that requires CPS to bargain with the union on subjects including class sizes, outsourcing, non-teaching staff positions and more.

Significantly it does not include as a subject of mandatory bargaining the length of the school day or year. This is important because of the pandemic. Mayor Lightfoot opposed having the length of the school day included as a subject of mandatory bargaining.

She is wrong on this.

Teacher unions should have the right to bargain and, if necessary, strike over how long they are required to work.

I should make clear that the legal restrictions of permissive bargaining has never kept the CTU from actually bargaining subjects beyond salary and benefits.

Since 2016 the CTU has gone on strike twice over subjects that were considered permissive.

But the statutory expansion of bargaining rights is an important legal win.

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