Chicago Teachers Union votes to strike for third time in 7 years

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
October 1, 2019

Chicago Teachers Union votes to strike for third time in 7 years

After rejecting an offer based on the recommendations of a neutral third-party report, Illinois’ largest teachers union voted to walk out on their students as soon as Oct. 7.

The Chicago Teachers Union vote to strike for the third time in seven years is a demand that Chicago taxpayers hand over more than $1.1 billion over three years.

To put that in perspective, if CTU got its demands and the entire cost went to property taxes, a Chicago family in a median-value home would pay at least $221 more in the first year of the contract than they would have under the school district’s original offer.

The union and district together picked an independent fact-finder, who looked over both sides’ offers and finances and recommended 16% in raises over five years. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot agreed to accept the finding. CTU rejected it, and went back to reasserting their demands for 15% over three years and reductions in employee contributions to their health care plans. The union’s demands would increase average pay to $91,407 from $78,961 in just three years, even before accounting for automatic “step increases” based on years of service.

Salary demands and health insurance costs are typically part of contract negotiations. But CTU is also asking for more teachers and support staff, such as nurses and counselors, which are not traditionally terms of the contract. In total, CTU is demanding the district hire just under 4,025 new staff at a first year cost of $267 million and a 3-year cost of around $800 million. CTU also wants the school district to help new teachers buy homes and demands a moratorium on school closures for the next 10 years, regardless of whether the declining student population or economic factors require it. All together, these demands would cost taxpayers $397 million more just in the first year.

CTU’s vote to strike is just the latest example of a union power play in Illinois. In this case, union leaders are wielding that power to pressure teachers to walk out on vulnerable students over excessive demands that the district – and taxpayers – can’t afford.

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