By Chris Tye

CHICAGO (CBS) — Talks between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union continued into Tuesday night.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson issued this statement about negotiations with the union:

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“As we work toward an agreement that provides families an option to safely return to the classroom, CPS and CTU conferred throughout the day on a small number of remaining issues. We expect discussions to continue into the evening, and we will provide updates as negotiations progress. It is critical that we work through the remaining issues in a timely manner so that our families and staff can fully focus on the high quality education our students deserve.”

CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported Tuesday on the latest.

Starting at 11 a.m., the mayor indicated that one of the big three sticking points had been resolved. Union sources said that is not the case. But the tone from both sides has apparently cooled down.

“This is probably the best sign that parents have had since the start of the school year,” said Robert Bruno, Professor of labor employment relations at the University of Illinois.

He said there has never been a labor dispute like this one.

“Not just exceptional for Chicago, but exceptional for the country,” Bruno said.

Why?

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He said working conditions aren’t usually in the bullseye of a teachers union dispute. Even more rare: an employer triggering new working conditions. In this case remote instruction. Then the employer wanting staff to revert back to in-person learning.

If you don’t comply, your bosses could lock you out from work, all while a pandemic forces virtual negotiations and a strike looms.

After more than seventy meetings, three sticking points remain.

Explicit vaccination plans on how staff will get the shot, detailed remote work plans for members allowed to remote teach long term due to family obligations. And metrics for future closure in case COVID spikes again.

Bruno said teachers have the strategic upper hand. Not because of a strike threat, but, if the plug is pulled on their ability to teach remotely, it would be Mayor Lightfoot pulling that plug. Those are optics and politics he said she’d want to avoid.

“The mayor would be in a situation where she has essentially ended school.  And clearly that’s not what she wants to do,” Bruno said.

The union said one option they have pitched, but the city hasn’t swung at, is allowing teachers back who’ve been vaccinated or are willing to come back voluntarily to return.

On Tuesday, Doctor Allison Arwady, head of the CDPH, said over 3,700 CPS employees have been vaccinated or given opportunity to sign up for vaccinations.

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