Reporting Dana Kozlov
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CHICAGO (CBS) – As he prepares to take the national spotlight this week at the Democratic National Convention with a possible teachers strike looming in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s confident the Chicago Public Schools and teachers will be able to set aside their differences and reach a fair contract agreement.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports the mayor said one thing repeatedly Monday about teacher contract talks: “We’ll work through the issues.”
But whether he thinks that will happen before the strike deadline in one week wasn’t clear.
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A day before he prepares to leave town to speak at the Democratic National Convention, Emanuel took time to talk to Kozlov one-on-one about the state of teacher contract negotiations.
“We’ve had good conversations through the weekend. They start again tomorrow. The good news is tomorrow the negotiations pick up again, and the school day will start on-time, with a new school year – which is a full school day and a full school year – and we’ll continue to work on the issues,” the mayor said.
But what isn’t clear is exactly how far the school district and the teachers still have to go before reaching a deal.
“The negotiations are for the negotiations table. The classroom is for the education of our children. And we’ll work through all the issues. That’s not a problem,” the mayor said.
Asked if he believes there won’t be a strike, Emanuel said, “My view is, if we focus on what we need to, there’s no need to.”
But the union is clearly ready to strike if talks don’t result in a deal soon.
A few hours before the mayor spoke about the looming strike, thousands of CTU members and other union members stood across the street from City Hall, in a show of solidarity.
At the rally, CTU President Karen Lewis called Emanuel “a liar … and a bully.”
Asked if, in retrospect, he wished he’d approached his initial relationship with the teachers union differently, the mayor noted two recent contract deals with City Colleges workers and Chicago airport employees as a sign that city leaders and labor unions can put aside their differences to reach a compromise.
“This is not about me. It’s not about the heads of the Teachers Union, it’s about the school system being focused on the success of our kids,” Emanuel said.