Thousands of teachers gather for downtown rally, march

May 23, 2012 (CHICAGO)

After nearly 4,000 teachers rallied at the Auditorium Theatre, they marched down Michigan Avenue and then to CPS headquarters at Clark and Adams. Later on, they were expected to join other protesters at the Chicago Board of Trade.

"We want to be treated fair," said Teresa Jordan, elementary special education teacher. "We want fair pay; we want fair hours."

With their contract up June 30 and negotiations stalled, they say a strike is possible.

"A lot of us don't want it, but it's something we have to do," said Mayla McManigal, social worker.

"The strike talk is very real," said Oscar Ortiz, elementary special education teacher.

Talks have stumbled over four primary issues: pay increases, class size, job security and curriculum quality. The mayor has pushed for longer school days. Pay is a sticking point.

"Chicago teachers deserve a pay raise," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "They work very hard. They deserve a pay raise. Chicago school children do not deserve a strike."

"This is a national fight," said Karen Lewis, president Chicago Teachers Union. "All across this country teachers commissions and para-professionals are fighting failed status quo reforms."

An independent arbitrator is assessing each side's proposal and is expected to report back by mid-July.

"This is why this process is designed," said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. "According to allow, it allows some one independent from CTU and independent from CPS to review the process. And I am pretty confident by mid July we will see a proposal and come to a happy median."

A new state law requires the teachers union to have 75 percent of their members vote in favor of such a move before they can walkout.

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