CHICAGO (CBS)– Students will be missing a fifth day of school on Wednesday as a teachers’ strike continues.
While the Chicago Teachers Union was optimistic early in the strike, as of Tuesday there seemed to be little hope of ending the work stoppage anytime soon.
The Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday afternoon that as of 4 p.m., the CTU had not scheduled a House of Delegates vote to end their strike, and so classes will be canceled Wednesday. CPS has noted with each cancellation announcement that school buildings will remain open for students and breakfast and lunch will be served.
As of 4 p.m., CTU has not scheduled a House of Delegates vote, which would be necessary to end their strike. As a result, it will not be possible to hold classes tomorrow, Wednesday, 10/23. After school activities will not be available. https://t.co/q0nQPR7VLL pic.twitter.com/dVAyYhTKtD
— ChicagoPublicSchools (@ChiPubSchools) October 22, 2019
There was no progress to report in contract talks on Tuesday, CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported. While talks are not at an impasse, they were at the verge of a breakdown Tuesday.
The CTU apparently does not expect an agreement on Wednesday either – given that the union is asking teachers and supporters across the country to wear red on Thursday in solidarity.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said Monday night that Mayor Lori Lightfoot “dashed our hopes for a quick settlement” by sending the Chicago Teachers Union a letter urging teachers to go back to work during negotiations.
Late Tuesday, CTU Chief of Staff Jennifer Johnson reiterated that the mayor’s letter urging teachers to return to school “really took the air out of bargaining.”
However, the mayor said Sharkey was overstating things, saying her letter was intended to highlight the human cost of the strike, pointing out various ways students are affected beyond missing class.
Because of the letter, all the rank-and-file members of the CTU bargaining team were sent back to the picket line on Tuesday, while only union leaders were present for negotiations at Malcolm X College, Johnson said.
The mayor criticized CTU for not having their full bargaining team at the table on Tuesday.
“It’s unfortunate that the larger bargaining team has decided that they’re going to take the day off,” said Lightfoot. “There has to be a commitment, and a will, and a sense of urgency on all sides; that’s what’s going to make a difference.”
The rank-and-file members of the bargaining team will return on Wednesday.
Johnson said the CTU bargaining team members who were present Tuesday also met with 25 school sports coaches. The coaches said in some instances they try to play tournament softball with only five softballs, and student athletes sometimes need to use uniforms from 10 years ago.
Mayor Lightfoot brought up in her letter, and has brought up on other occasions, that school sports teams would be ineligible for the state playoffs if the strike were not resolved. The letter noted that the Simeon High School volleyball team – one of the top programs in Illinois – would not be eligible for the playoffs if the strike was not resolved by Tuesday. CPS’ boys’ soccer teams were also unable to participate in state playoffs.
“There is zero romanticism in a work stoppage, it isn’t,” she said. “There’s nothing that we’ll be able to say to any student athlete that’s going to make it better.”
But Gates said the city was to blame for the strike, which she said the teachers and the union never wanted. She reiterated the CTU’s contention that the mayor and CPS had 10 months to negotiate with the CTU before the contract expired, but they did not do so.
Lightfoot reiterated Tuesday that CPS is working to make pay raises, smaller class sizes, and increased staffing a reality for teachers; but she said there isn’t unlimited money to meet all of the union’s demands, and pulling people from the table won’t get a deal done.
“There is a finite pot of money. We don’t have unlimited cash to keep funding the things that are aspirational – maybe things that are values that we share,” Lightfoot said. “We have to live within our means. That’s what the taxpayers expect of us, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
“This idea that we’re flush with cash and just sitting on it, and not spending it on the things that we both agree matter, just isn’t true,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson.
The CTU dismisses that claim.
“Then the negotiators at the table started saying the exact same thing, which is: ‘We’re out of money. There’s no more places for us to go,’” Sharkey said. “That was extremely disappointing.”
Sharkey said the CTU’s full bargaining team will be back at the table when the mayor’s team shows it’s serious about negotiating on the remaining issues.
“She just got done saying she had nowhere left to go. So if she says we have nowhere left to go, why should I have 40 people … that should be out in their communities, marching, raising awareness about our issues,” Sharkey said. “When she has something to say about that, when she has an offer to make, we’ll bring them back, and we’ll consider their offers.”
Mayor Lightfoot will deliver a budget address on Wednesday.
“We have no doubt that the mayor is going to continue the line of austerity,” Johnson said.
Picket lines outside schools will be suspended Wednesday, and members will instead converge on downtown Chicago “to make our voices heard,” Johnson said.
Meantime, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), a leading Democratic presidential candidate, joined teachers at a rally Tuesday morning at Oscar DePriest Elementary School on the West Side.
She said the entire nation should support the striking teachers.
“I’m here because the eyes of this nation are upon you. They have turned to Chicago for you to lead the way. For you to show how the power of standing together is the power of making real change in this country,” Warren said.