Union Delegates Meet To Decide Whether To End Teachers’ Strike
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UPDATED 09/18/12 – 5 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Parents and students in the Chicago Public Schools system are in the midst of another anxious day of waiting Tuesday, as the strike continues into its seventh school day — and its ninth overall.
And as CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, it’s anybody’s guess what the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates as they meet to consider the tentative contract agreement that was put into writing Sunday morning.
Delegates began their meeting at 3 p.m. and were going over the contract proposal in great detail before they vote on whether to suspend the strike.
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, according to a union official, CTU President Karen Lewis estimated union leaders would likely have a decision by 5:30 p.m. about whether the strike would end.
As of 5 p.m., after going through the tentative deal for about two hours, delegates heard from Lewis, who urged them to suspend the strike. However, no vote had yet been taken.
Negotiators for CPS and CTU reached a tentative agreement over the weekend, and it was presented to CTU delegates Sunday afternoon. At the time, it appeared the strike would end and classes would resume Monday, but Sunday evening, Lewis said delegates had decided they needed more time to review the tentative deal before deciding whether to call off the strike.
And so the strike continues, with many parents still strongly backing the teachers.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
Tuesday morning, dozens of parents and teachers were marching in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters, 125 S. Clark St. They came to make a delivery to schools chief executive officer Jean-Claude Brizard of more than 1,000 postcards demanding a fair contract and better schools for children.
The cards, which were gathered from all across the city, also call for smaller classes, fair compensation, and more nurses and social workers, among other things.
They also demand that the school district negotiate fairly with teachers, who in many cases have been on the picket line for nine days.
Parents are not happy that the strike is still in progress, but some are saying the teachers are in the right.
“To the parents who have been frustrated this week, and are expressing additional frustration today, I would say direct your frustration at the Board of Ed, at Mr. Brizard, at City Hall,” said Erica Clark of the group Parents 4 Teachers, “because they are the ones who caused this strike.”
“My great hope is that one thing that can come out of this is some reconciliation, and some real working together to continue to make improvements in our neighborhood schools for our neighborhood kids,” added Joy Clendenning, also of Parents 4 Teachers.
The parents and teachers tried to deliver the postcards to the upper levels of CPS Headquarters to present personally to Brizard. When they were not allowed to go upstairs, they asked if someone could come down and collect them, but the security officer at the front desk said that wouldn’t be happening either.
The group ultimately left the cards with the security officer, who took them upstairs in an elevator.
Outside CPS Headquarters, Robin, a legal secretary walking to work, picked up a sign and started walking. She did not agree with the parents who say they are getting tired of the strike.
“That’s because of all these ads that are being run by the reform,” she said.
She conceded that frustration with the strike is also motivated by the fact that parents also want their kids back in school, but that position applies to everyone.
“Of course they want their kids in school. The teachers want their kids in school,” she said. “But they have to buy toilet paper to bring to school.”
The Chicago School Board says it is continuing to offer programs at 450 locations, including parks, public libraries, and certain schools.
Meanwhile, numerous demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, both in support of and against the strike. A local bishop, Larry Trotter, is planning to nail his granddaughter symbolically to a cross, and says the strike is crucifying the children of Chicago.
Later in the afternoon, the union delegates will meet at the International Union of Operating Engineers hall, 2260 S. Grove St., to vote on whether to end the strike. Until then, the strike enters its seventh day.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools officials have been seeking other means to stop the strike. On Monday, their chosen arena for attempting to do so was the Circuit Court of Cook County.
The Emanuel administration filed a motion for an injunction against the union, asking a judge to end the strike on the grounds that it is illegal, and creates a clear and present danger to the safety of the public.
Officials say the two primary issues teachers are striking over – teacher evaluations and the rehiring of laid off teachers – are not legally acceptable reasons to call a strike.
“They know that these two issues are out of the bounds of strikeability – that’s the evaluation, and the recall provisions – but, in good faith, we tried to negotiate with them on those elements, and avoid all of that activity, and get our kids back in school,” Chicago School Board President David Vitale said Monday.
Attorneys for CPS and the city filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court at the Daley Center on Monday, and went before Judge Peter Flynn to end the strike.
Flynn seemed reluctant to handle the case on an emergency basis as the city asked, since the union’s delegates are meeting Tuesday.
The judge has asked the city’s attorneys to decide if they want to present full arguments on their request, and said he preferred to set a hearing for 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, a day after the union delegates’ next meeting.
Meanwhile, labor law experts say the mayor’s choice to take the case to court was risky.
“This does not bode well. This is a bad thing. It’s not good in the long term for resolving a dispute amicably. We all, Chicagoans, all have a vested interest in having this dispute being resolved in a way that is good and helpful in the long term,” said Northwestern University Law School Associate Professor Zev Eigen.
The delegates will take a simple majority out of more than 700 delegates to end the strike.