CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Teachers Union leadership could soon ask its 25,000 members to authorize a strike as it continues to pressure the Chicago Public Schools for an agreement on a safe reopening plan for the district.
A source tells CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov that CTU’s House of Delegates is meeting tomorrow afternoon, and it’s possible they’ll ask for a strike authorization vote. However the goal is not to set a walk-out date, but to push CPS to land a deal with the union about a safe return for all teachers to the classroom.READ MORE: Feds Seize 65,000 Counterfeit N95 Masks At O'Hare International Airport
Both sides met all weekend long to work on a negotiated safety return, and CPS says they are making progress, but the two sides have yet to reach an agreement on terms for in-person classes.
Students in pre-K and some special education programs returned to in-person learning last week, and kindergarten through 8th grade classes go back starting Feb. 1. Teachers in K-8th grade are scheduled to return to classrooms on Monday to prepare, but CTU has been saying for weeks that the CPS reopening plan is not safe.
The district has said the vast majority of teachers and staff have reported to school buildings as required since the phased-in reopening began, and has said those who don’t show up as required will not be paid, and will be locked out of the district’s email system and remote teaching tools.
In order to authorize a strike, CTU would need at least 75% of its membership to to vote in favor of a work stoppage.
It’s also possible the union will consider alternatives to a full-on strike, such as having teachers continue working remotely until they receive a COVID-19 vaccine, forcing CPS to decide between locking teachers out from remote work or striking a deal with the union.READ MORE: First Case Of Brazil Variant Of COVID-19 Confirmed In Illinois
For weeks, CTU has held various demonstrations across the city to oppose the return to in-person classes without an agreement between CPS and teachers, calling the district’s reopening plan “dangerous.”
Teachers have said many school buildings aren’t being sufficiently cleaned and disinfected, don’t have sufficient PPE and cleaning supplies, and don’t have proper ventilation.
The district has claimed it has installed air purifiers in every classroom and office that will be occupied when schools reopen; has set up a voluntary COVID testing program; and has bought face coverings and disinfecting supplies for students, teachers, and staff.
CPS officials also have said an assessment of every school campus by an independent state-certified environmental hygienist determined 94% of the 36,000 spaces assessed in its buildings were cleared as safe, including 99% of the nearly 20,000 classrooms checked.
The union has disputed those findings, and has criticized the district for not allowing CTU to bring in its own expert to assess ventilation at school buildings.
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