CTU: CPS teachers vote to authorize strike

June 11, 2012 (CHICAGO)

CTU says nearly 90 percent of teachers voted in favor of giving the union authorization to strike.

CTU says about 91 percent of its members participated in the vote, and 98 percent of those who participated voted in favor of a strike.

  • MEMBERSHIP: 26,502
  • Total valid votes: 24,262
  • 91.55% of membership voting
  • 89.73% YES
  • 1.82% NO
  • 494 rejected/spoiled ballots
  • 2,240 non-voters (includes any spoiled, etc)
  • 8.45% membership non-voting

"The vote has well surpassed the 75 percent threshold required by state law, with some school networks voting 100 percent to authorize a strike," a CTU news release said.

Under a new law backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 75 percent rather than a simple majority is required for a strike authorization vote.

The vote moves the union closer to its first strike since 1987. Faced with a $700 million deficit, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard calls the vote a shame.

"The results are not a win. they are an indictment on the state of the relationship between the management of CPS and its target labor force," said Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president.

Brizard said he is confident a contract can be reached this summer.

"We are going to keep working hard to come to a resolution... cannot afford 30 percent, we'll find the right number to pay teachers well," he said.

The teachers voted despite public pleas from Brizard, the mayor and several education reform groups. Brizard asked the teachers to hold off until an arbitrator released recommendations on wages and benefits July 16.

While the union has made no determination of whether a strike will be needed, union leaders say the authorization vote now gives them leverage at the bargaining table.

Teachers have been negotiating with Chicago Public Schools over salary increases, longer school days and issues surrounding working conditions. Their contract expires June 30.

The school board has proposed a five-year deal that would guarantee teachers a 2-percent pay raise in the first year and lengthen the school day.

But teachers are asking for a two-year deal with an increase closer to 30 percent because of the longer day and and the 4-percent raise the school board took back from the teachers.

"That was the original bargaining position, but their original is 2 percent," Lewis said. "My assumption is in a negotiation, you start in different places and you work toward a compromise. So why would we start at a floor?"

Parents like Allen Braxton, whose son goes to Walter Payton Prep, says a possible strike will affect the kids, but he supports the teachers.

"It'll hurt him [Braxton's son], but I mean, hey, he can study his books at home for the time being," the father said. "The teachers just need to be heard. I mean, they're doing a good job; they're getting these kids through the classes like we expect them to do. Why not give them something?"

Questions have been raised about the integrity of the strike authorization voting process, but the announcement Monday is expected to put those questions to rest when the results come out.

Meanwhile, district officials believe the vote is premature, especially since an independent fact-finding panel is working on a report that will be released in July that could bring both sides to a compromise.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard also released a statement Monday:

"The Chicago Teachers Union leadership pushed their members to authorize a strike before giving them the opportunity to consider the independen fact finder's compromise report due in July. That's a shame. The CTU leadership left the teachers with a choice between a strike and nothing -- that's a false choice. As a former teacher, I am disappointed that union leadership would rush their members to vote for a strike before having complete information on the table," he wrote.

"The possibility of a strike really saddens me because I love my teachers. I've always been at a CPS school, and I just love the CPS teachers, and it just saddens me just to know that they might just leave," Payton Prep student Aryn Vann said.

If teachers do decide to strike, it cannot be until mid-August. State law outlines a certain process that has to be followed.

In the meantime, contract negotiations continue.

Former Chicago mayor Richard Daley is also talking about the battle between the teachers and CPS. He was the keynote speaker Monday morning at an event at the Merchandise Mart.

"I firmly believe that teachers are the backbone of our city and our country. I know there's an issue here and they'll have to confront that in the administration. But my viewpoint is I work all the changes that we made here in the public schools with the cooperation of the teachers, so that's the key, and success is not one person, it is teamwork," said Daley.

The former mayor was speaking at NeoCon, which is North America's largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors. It provides more than 40,000 architecture and design professionals with seminars and forums.

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