Chicago Public Schools and the CTU are now negotiating the most contentious issues -- and one of them is wages.
After a union delegates meeting Wednesday, CTU President Karen Lewis announced what she called "reasonable news": that merit pay is no longer on the table which is what the union wanted.
Negotiations resume Thursday, but teachers prepare to strike Monday.
"I know I have to go to strike training tomorrow, so I know how to inform my staff about the requirements and rules and making sure everything is peaceful," said Amy Bray, a fill-in union delegate.
Delegates left the meeting with bagfuls of t-shirts and strike signs.
"Nobody wants to strike, but nobody wants to work under an unfair bad contract. We all want a decent contract," said Michael Bochner, Chavez Elementary teacher.
Union leaders say CPS made an offer Wednesday for wages; it would be a four-year deal with a 2-percent cost of living pay raise every year. But the deal would eliminate step raises, or pay increases for each year of experience up to 14 years.
"It is a decrease in pay for our members," said Lewis.
Union leaders, who plan to meet before making a counter offer, are concerned CPS' offer doesn't match the 10-percent increase in work with longer school days.
The union also filed legal action Wednesday against CPS after teachers' paychecks did not include step raises. That means the strike could be designated under unfair labor practice.
"The legal effect of an unfair labor strike is that the employer is prohibited from hiring permanent replacements to replace those strikers," said Robert Bloch, CTU attorney.CPS released a statement Wednesday night calling the legal move "unnecessary litigation." The statement went on to say, in part, "it's time to put antics aside and negotiate in good faith on behalf of our students."
This legal issue will not be determined by Monday. It goes in front of the Illinois labor relations board.
CPS Statement on CTU IELRB filing
"We are very disappointed that the Chicago Teachers Union has filed unnecessary litigation at a time when our focus should be on negotiations and reaching a fair agreement in order to avoid any disruptions to our kids' school year. It's time to put antics aside and negotiate in good faith on behalf of our students so they can stay in classrooms with their teachers where they belong."
Chief Communications Officer
Chicago Public Schools