CTU rejects fact-finder’s report, can strike in 30 days

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The Chicago Teachers Union could legally go on strike after a 30-day "cooling off" period that ends May 16. This file photo is from a CTU rally in downtown Chicago after a one-day strike on April 1, 2016.

Photo by Stacey Rupulo

The Chicago Teachers Union could legally go on strike after a 30-day "cooling off" period that ends May 16. This file photo is from a CTU rally in downtown Chicago after a one-day strike on April 1, 2016.

The Chicago Teachers Union rejected a third-party fact-finder’s contract recommendations this afternoon, starting the clock for a potential strike as early as May 16.

It’s unclear, however, whether the union will hold a strike this school year — and risk losing the support of families eager for their students to graduate from high school— or wait until the start of next school year.

“We have to talk to our people,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. “We don’t know if we are going to force the school year to a close now or strike when the next school year begins. Either way, we won’t be held hostage by the Board’s zombie budgets. They need to go after the banks, [tax-increment financing] funds, and other forms of short- and long-term revenue that is sitting right in front of us.”

The union must give the district a 10-day notice before going on strike.

Unsurprisingly, Chicago Public Schools officials said they accepted fact-finder Steven Bierig’s recommendations on wages and benefits, which mirrored the district’s January offer that was already shot down once by the union’s big bargaining team.

At the time, the cash-strapped district proposed phasing out the pension pickup over the first two years of a four-year contract and increasing health care costs — which officials said would be cancelled out with modest pay increases ranging from 1 to 3 percent over the next four years. In addition, the district would pay the steps-and-lanes salary increases during the last three years of the contract, but not in the current year. (CPS hasn’t paid for those routine salary increases for union members’ years of experience and education level all year.)

CTU leaders considered the offer serious enough to take to the big bargaining team, which unanimously rejected it, citing distrust in the district and stressing the need for sustainable revenue sources. In fact, last month the district said it could no longer afford the January offer, although during a Saturday afternoon press conference, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said he’d figure out a way to make it happen.

Claypool urged the union to reconsider the proposal, saying his “hope is that they will give their members an opportunity to read the fact finder’s report, and come to their own conclusions about the best path forward. “My hope is that we can quickly reach an agreement so that we can stand united in demanding our fair share of funding from Springfield,” he said, according to a written statement.

That sentiment was echoed in  Bierig’s report, which calls the January offer “the most reasonable approach to an extremely difficult situation…. I find that by incorporating [that offer] into their contract, the parties will have a fighting chance to experience a significant period of labor peace during which they can combine forces to resolve the larger problems facing them.”

Meanwhile the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board agreed earlier this week to issue a complaint in favor of the district’s charge that the CTU’s one-day strike on April 1 was illegal.  The labor board meets next Thursday to determine whether to grant CPS emergency injunctive relief in the matter.

District officials say the strike was illegal; the union says federal case law allows for strikes when employers engage in unfair labor practices.

Click here to see our interactive timeline of the key progress — and setbacks — in contract negotiations between the CTU and district. Educators have been working without a contract since July.

Attachments: fact-finder’s reportofficial dissent from CTU; CPS concurrent opinion

  • Concerned Parent

    A forensic audit of ALL cps positions and payouts must be done.
    Time for a school finance authority. Heard that Jesse Ruiz was open to this.

    • Northside

      You have to read the comments that people pit on the interent
      We work 5 months a year and get 75 percent pension at 55….scary stuff…one guy said u could.replace alllll the teachers over spring break. It’s insane…I always wondered.if it’s so easy and so lucrative to be a teacher. Why doesn’t everyone want to be a teacher???

  • Concerned Parent

    LACK of TRUST Mr. Claypool. Fact finder comes up with the same proposal you offered. Really. How did you or he get that so right? CTU is to rely on your word. With Rauner and Rahm as your bosses; words are profanities, oaths fade away and signatures on contracts are a waste of paper. How do you not realize that you are dealing with highly educated and dedicated negotiators?

  • Daniel van Over

    There’s really no point in demonizing Steven Bierig for just doing his job. The Union expected just such an outcome. Since one member of the 3-person fact finding panel was appointed by the CTU (general counsel Robert Bloch), there weren’t any “surprises” about what was going on during the process.

    It was back in 2011 when CPS, quite simply, outmaneuvered the CTU in crafting Senate Bill 7, which contains both the 75% requirement for authorizing a strike, as well as the fact-finding process. SB7 hamstrings the fact-finder in several ways.

    First, the FF may only consider “the employer’s financial ability to fund the proposals based on existing available resources.” Notice the word “existing.” The Union has proposed lots of ideas for generating new revenues and has even been able to get some legislators to propose legislation–but none of that can be considered by the FF.

    Although we live and work in the metropolitan Chicago area in the State of Illinois, the only comparison the FF can consider is to other educational employees in “the 10 largest U.S. cities.” That rules out salary comparisons with the suburbs, many of which pay much better than does CPS. Further, it removes in-state comparisons such as the fact that MOST school districts, and thus teachers, in Illinois have their employer pay a pension “pickup.”
    Mr. Bierig was following the law when he formulated his report. It’s really unfair to make aspersions about his character, intelligence, or legitimacy of his birth for doing his job. It’s the 2011 law (SB7), passed with bipartisan, near-unanimous support (Monique Davis being the only legislator to vote against it) and signed by Gov. Quinn, that is flawed.

    Mr. Bierig did his job, and the CTU Officers did theirs in rejecting the report. Let’s move on.

  • Concerned Parent

    Confusing statement: “the employer’s financial ability to fund the proposals based on existing available resources.” Claypool has made it clearnumerous times that there are no exist resources or why would he then be borrowing so much. No one here spoke about Mr. Bierig’s birth.