CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Teachers Union voted Wednesday walk off the job on April 1 and close down the schools for the day in a battle with district officials over funding and a new contract.
Union President Karen Lewis said 486 members of the union’s House of Delegates voted in favor of the walkout, while 124 voted against the action.
“April 1 would be an unfair labor day of action,” Lewis said in announcing the proposed strike. “It’s a showdown.”
Chicago Public School officials have said a walkout by the teachers would be illegal because it isn’t in line with the state-mandated process for a teachers strike.
Before the House of Delegates vote, Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged the union to call off the one-day strike and remain in the classroom where they and the district’s roughly 400,000 students belong.
“The leadership of the union should be at the negotiating table. Our kids should be at their desks in the classroom and our teachers should be there giving them the essential education that they chose as a profession — not a job,” Emanuel said. “As a profession that they love to do. We can do and should as a city do both and not take out any disagreements . . . on our kids’ education.”
The union’s 27,000 members have been working without a new contract since June 30. The union in February rejected a four-year deal, saying the offer does not address school conditions, a lack of services for some students or the fiscal crisis the nation’s third-largest district faces. The union’s 40-member “Big Bargaining Team” voted against sending the proposal to the larger House of Delegates. That group would have decided whether the entire union membership would vote on it.
“We believe a tentative contract can be reached if all parties continue to negotiate in good faith,” schools CEO Forrest Claypool told the Board of Education early Wednesday. “But rather than focusing on reaching an agreement, it is disappointing to see the CTU’s leadership is promoting an illegal strike that would take a critical day of instruction away from our students to say nothing of encouraging teachers to break the law.”
The school district faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit and is getting no income from the state because of a budget impasse between the Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Earlier this month, the district announced employees will be required to take three unpaid furlough days during the current fiscal year to save $30 million. The district previously had announced it was ending a long-standing practice of picking up the bulk of pension contributions for teachers.
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