CHICAGO (WLS) -- Questions about Chicago's parental leave policy are putting Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the hot seat.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union took their frustration to City Hall Wednesday, along with more than 3,000 petitions demanding that teachers be granted the same parental leave now offered to city employees.
"And that is why I am here today, to ask the mayor 'why?'" CPS teacher Alli Soldner said. "Why are you leaving out a division of city workers that is comprised of 80% women?"
Last fall, the mayor worked out an agreement to provide up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all 32,000 city employees, whether they were growing their families through birth, adoption or fostering.
Teachers said they were promised the same thing, but then in December, CPS suddenly reversed its position.
"Is it pro-women and pro-family to deny 12 weeks leave after it was promised to CPS employees, to educators?" CTU Vice President Jackson Potter said.
Lightfoot called it nonsense to suggest she pressured CPS to shut out teachers.
"It has to be done through the collective bargaining, they need to get at the table, they need to bring the CPS people around and get it done," Lightfoot said.
Also, some aldermen introduced an ordinance in city council Wednesday to also provide similar paid family leave to police, who currently have to use sick time.
"My understanding is that medical time is used when you're sick or when you're injured on the job," said Ald. Silvana Tabares, 23rd Ward. "That when you have a birth of a child, a newborn is not a virus, a newborn should not be used for sick time, it should be separate."
"We have been at the bargaining table with the FOP and they have rejected the adoption of this policy," Lightfoot said.
What's not clear at this point is when the teachers might be able to actually negotiate over parental leave, but Lightfoot is encouraging CPS leadership to adopt the same or a similar policy as what is available to other city workers
In a letter to CTU President Stacy Davis Gates, Lightfoot wrote:
"I am writing in response to your January 5, 2023, letter regarding paid parental leave. I am fully committed to supporting new parents and families, and I am proud of our new City of Chicago policy that went into effect January 1, 2023, which allows 12 weeks of paid leave regardless of whether the baby or child is a newborn, adopted or fostered. While sister agencies are not subject to the City of Chicago parental leave policy, I have encouraged sister agencies, including Chicago Public Schools (CPS), to adopt the same or similar policy. I recognize that as with the City, adoption of such policies must be subject to existing collective bargaining agreements. Any claim that I would not support this policy for sister agencies is unfounded.
"Furthermore, allegations that anyone outside of CPS has influenced discussions of this matter are baseless and untrue. The Mayor's Office has not engaged with CPS, or anyone else for that matter, on CPS parental leave policy. This is an issue for the bargaining table. I encourage CTU leadership to work with CPS leadership to create a model parental leave policy for the district. Perhaps you might address this _directly with CEO Martinez now or as an agenda item in your monthly meeting."