Chicago Teachers Union ends walkout after students lose 5 days
Chicago students will be back in classes Jan. 12 after losing five days of instruction thanks to a walkout by the Chicago Teachers Union. The union forced more COVID-19 testing, but damaged students’ educations for the third time in 27 months to do so.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s governing body voted 389 to 226 to return to classrooms, ending a walkout over COVID-19 testing that cost students five days of instruction and was the union’s third work stoppage in 27 months.
Chicago Public Schools agreed all schools will begin testing at least 10% of their student population, but parents must permit their children to be part of the testing program. CTU wanted all students tested unless parents chose to remove them from the program. The district refused, giving parents control of their children’s testing.
The district is aiming to have 100% of students tested and vaccinated by Feb 1.
Additionally, the two parties agreed on a metric based on staff and student absences in quarantine that would trigger an individual school to shift to remote learning.
Parents were upset with CTU for forcing students out of classes and were organizing against the work stoppage. One group of parents sued, trying to end what they said was an illegal work stoppage.
“The Catholic school is open down the street from me and the parking lots are full, so it doesn’t make sense that our public schools are closed,” said Sarah Sachen, a mother of four CPS students.
“At my schools, most of the teachers are vaccinated, my children are vaccinated, and the schools are following masking and distancing protocols, so I feel safe sending my kids to school,” she said. “I’m very upset by the current situation with the Chicago Teachers Union.”
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates cast the union as a victim in the dispute and criticized parents who were outraged by the work stoppage.
“This is the second January in a row where we have had to be held hostage, quite frankly, in hostage negotiations,” she said. “What parents don’t know is that without the workers, the school workers in our building, you don’t have anything.”
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez thanked the 16% of teachers who reported to buildings Jan. 10, allowing over 150 schools to offer some in-person activities.
Teacher Joe Ocol said students should not be used as pawns by union leaders with a political agenda who are bent on power plays.
“Our students lose every day there’s a strike. They have already lost more than a year of learning. And now another loss for them is so sad,” he said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot dodged questions about which side “won” the standoff, but said she is relieved kids will be back in school.
“I’m hopeful this is the end, at least for this school year,” Lightfoot said, referring to the CTU labor disputes spanning years.
CTU forced work stoppages three times in 27 months, including 11 days of instruction lost in 2019. Before that, CTU actions in 2016 cost students a day and in 2012 cost seven days.
But Lightfoot may be engaging in wishful thinking, especially if a proposal to enshrine union powers in the Illinois Constitution passes in November.
Amendment 1 gives union bosses permanent powers that could override state laws and a constitutional protection no other special interest enjoys. Lawmakers could never diminish union powers or repeal Amendment 1, even in a unanimous vote.
Before Illinois voters decide Nov. 8 whether government unions need more power in Illinois, they should examine how CTU has used the power it already has.