CPS, union wage legal battle over strike vote

Print More

As teachers continued the second day of the strike authorization vote, the district lost its request to a state labor board to have access to strike vote materials.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board denied a request for an emergency order that would have forced the Chicago Teachers Union to preserve material from the vote and allow the board and the district access to it.

But the board cannot yet extract itself from the messy battle between the union and CPS. On Thursday, the union announced that it had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district. The complaint alleges that the Board of Education interfered with the CTU’s right to conduct the strike authorization.

Teachers started voting on Wednesday on whether they will authorize a strike. The vote is expected to last until Friday.

The union says that the district was meddling when it made the request to force the union to keep and provide access to election material. This is not required by law and unduly encumbers the strike authorization process, according to the complaint.

Also at issue is a letter sent by CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to teachers on Monday. In the letter, Brizard writes that he wants to “take this opportunity to share some concerns I have about moving forward with a strike vote.”  

CTU lawyer Robin Potter said that the letter included threats and inaccurately portrayed the state of negotiations and what would happen if the strike authorization were approved. For example, in discussing raises, Brizard writes that “the process by which that occurs must be allowed to work itself through.”

“You can’t threaten like that,” Potter says. She says the letter also included statements that were not accurate about the district’s contract proposals. “You cannot mislead members. You cannot coerce them.

Not missing a beat, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll shot back that Brizard was simply responding to misrepresentations by the union.

“We have every right to communicate the truth to our teachers,” she says.

Carroll points out that the denial of the request that CTU preserve records was not a judgment on its validity. She says it was more a timing issue.

“What the IELRB merely did was rule that they do not intend to hold a meeting before their scheduled meeting on July 1 to begin issuing rule-making around SB7 and therefore they can’t require that the CTU preserve all documents related to their strike vote prior to that time,” she says.

John Brosnan, special counsel to the IELRB, explained that CPS’ request was denied because previously the court had set a high bar for what the district asked for: to preserve materials and have emergency rules created to govern the process. (Senate Bill 7, which was passed last year, lays out a procedure for how strikes can occur.)

Brosnan says that the normal process for creating rules around a new law can take several months and includes public hearings. Then, the rules must be approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which includes senators and representatives.

“Rules can’t really be done quickly,” he said.

In a recent case where the IELRB made emergency rules, the court ruled that the circumstances were not extraordinary enough. Not only did the rules have to be reversed, but the board had to pay attorney’s fees, he said.