Legislators address teachers union objections to bill on strike rights, tenure

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Legislation has emerged in the Illinois Senate to address objections by the Chicago Teachers Union to a bill curbing tenure and strike rights. The original bill, Senate Bill 7, is on Gov. Quinn’s desk and he has said he is prepared to sign it.

However, negotiations on amendments continued after the CTU took issue with provisions that it said were inserted at the last minute without its knowledge and further eroded its contract bargaining and strike rights. Legislation has emerged in the Illinois Senate to address objections by the Chicago Teachers Union to a bill curbing tenure and strike rights.

The original bill, Senate Bill 7, is on Gov. Quinn’s desk and he has said he is prepared to sign it. However, negotiations on amendments continued after the CTU took issue with provisions that it said were inserted at the last minute without its knowledge and further eroded its contract bargaining and strike rights.

“I am satisfied with the outcome” of the negotiations producing the new language, said CTU President Karen Lewis. 

Now a “trailer bill” – a measure aimed at satisfying the union’s objections to SB 7 – is under construction in the Senate. The vehicle is House Bill 1197, a bill to raise awareness of the dangers of head concussions on student athletes.

The Senate sponsor is Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), who led negotiations for five months to get all parties on board for SB 7.

Senate Amendment 1 addresses the CTU’s objections.

The trailer language concerns two areas. One is the language in SB 7 that would require at least three-fourths of all CTU members to vote ‘yes’ to authorize a strike. The CTU said that was a problem because many who technically are “members” do not have voting rights. The trailer bill would require affirmative votes by three-fourths of members who “shall be eligible to vote.”

In the rest of the state, teacher unions still face a requirement of only 50 percent.

The other area of concern is language in SB 7 that, according to the union, would allow the School Board to delay declaration of an impasse on contract negotiations until very late in a school year. The effect would be to make a strike such a massive community disruption that the union would hesitate to take such action.

The trailer bill would allow either party to declare an impasse as soon as “15 days after mediation has commenced.” Under SB 7, an official impasse could not be called until “after 15 days of mediation,” which could be strung out over a long period of time.

A second amendment is also on file, one that merely clarifies that the policy included in the trailer bill applies only to the CTU and the CPS Board and not to any other unions or school districts in Illinois.

Given where HB 1197 stands in the legislative process, the Senate could vote on these amendments immediately.

A favorable vote (30 voting “yes”) in the Senate would send the bill back to the House for a vote to concur with amendments adopted in the Senate. If all goes smoothly, the whole process could be done in an hour or two.

All of the provisions of the pending amendments to HB 1197 are conditional on SB 7 becoming law.