Chicago teachers strike is over, classes resume Wednesday

6:29 PM, Sep 18, 2012   |    comments
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CHICAGO -- Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years came to an end Tuesday after more than a week of discussions and rallies that had parents scrambling to find alternative care for their children.

The Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates -- nearly 800 members -- voted to end the strike during a meeting at Operating Engineers Hall, at 2260 Grove Street, on the city's south side.

The vote comes after delegates had a chance to review a contract proposal solidified over the weekend and means roughly 350,000 Chicago Public Schools students will head back to class on Wednesday.

The action, however, does not mean an automatic approval of that contract. Ratification of the contract requires a separate vote from the union's rank and file.

About 30,000 Chicago Public Schools teachers walked off the job on Sept. 10 after more than a year of slow, contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security. The teachers' previous contract expired June 30 and both sides weeks later rejected a report assembled by an independent fact-finder.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the work stoppage "unnecessary" and one of "choice."

While leadership on both sides continued the back-and-forth of contract negotiations, thousands of teachers and their supporters for days took to the city streets in a massive show of solidarity.

On Monday, Emanuel and CPS attorneys filed a request for an injunction to force teachers off the picket lines, claiming the outstanding issues, as publicly stated by the CTU -- teacher evaluations and recalls -- weren't legal reasons for a work stoppage.

A provision added to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act last year prohibits teachers from strike on issues unrelated to economic matters; those involving pay and benefits.

A Cook County judge declined the mayor's request to hold a same-day hearing on the injunction request. Instead, that hearing would have been held Wednesday. With Tuesday's action by the House of Delegates, that hearing is no longer necessary.

The CTU over the weekend released details of the contract on its website. The proposed contract includes the following:

The CTU wants a three year contract, which guarantees a three percent increase the first year and a two percent increase for both the second and third year. It also includes the option to extend the contract for a fourth year with a three percent raise;
CPS will move away from merit pay;

The board will hire more than 600 additional "special" teachers in art, music, physical education, world languages and other classes;

One half of all CPS hires must be displaced members;
CPS will evaluate teachers based on 70 percent "teacher practice" and 30 percent "student growth." Additionally, the first year of implementation will not harm tenured teachers and there is a right to appeal the evaluations.

Teachers walked off the job for 19 days in October 1987. Prior to that, there had been nine strikes between 1969 and 1987.

This latest strike forced busy parents to find alternative care for their children. Many said they exhausted available vacation time. Others made use of the nearly 150 "Children First" sites that provided students with alternative programming and meals.

As the strike entered its second week, some frustrated parents became more vocal in their demand that both sides end the stalemate. A small group of parents on Monday marched outside CTU headquarters holding signs that read "If you care about the kids, go back to work" and "350,000 CPS Hostages! Let our children learn" and "Don't say you care, show it!"

(WMAQ Chicago)

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