Under Illinois law, CTU must wait 4 months to strike after mediation fails

Jeffrey Schwab

Jeffrey Schwab is a senior attorney with the Liberty Justice Center.

Jeffrey Schwab
November 11, 2015

Under Illinois law, CTU must wait 4 months to strike after mediation fails

The Chicago Teachers Union cannot legally strike before completing several procedural steps, which would take four months following failed mediation with Chicago Public Schools; however, the union could flout the law and strike sooner in the hope of pressuring Chicago Public Schools to reach a deal quickly.

Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, and the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, have so far been unable to negotiate a new contract. CPS withdrew a one-year contract offer after differences arose with respect to teacher evaluations. CPS also sought to require teachers to pay the full share of their pension contributions, which CTU President Karen Lewis initially described as “strike-worthy” before appearing more open to it.

The parties agreed in August to mediation in an effort to resolve their disputes and work out a contract. But what happens if CPS and CTU can’t agree to a contract even after mediation?

Under Illinois law, if “after a reasonable period of mediation” the parties cannot reach an agreement, one party can request a “fact-finding” by a three-member panel selected by both sides. Once one party submits its demand for fact-finding, the parties have three days to agree to the selection of the three members for the panel. The panel can hold hearings and attempt to mediate the disputes of the parties.

If CPS and CTU did not resolve their dispute within 75 days after a fact-finding panel’s formation, the panel would privately issue to the parties findings of fact and recommended terms of settlement on all disputed issues, including the rationale for each recommendation. Either party could reject the panel’s proposal within 15 days. If a party did this, the panel’s report would become public.

In order to strike, teachers would have to wait until 30 days after the panel report had been made public, hold a vote in which 75 percent of the teachers voted to strike, and give 10 days’ notice to CPS before the strike. That means that CTU cannot legally strike until approximately four months after mediation fails and one party requests fact-finding, a process that has not even started.

If the union strikes without following these processes, it would commit a “refusal to bargain in good faith,” which is an “unfair labor practice.” In that case, CPS could file a charge with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, or Board.

A charge filed with the Board triggers an investigation, which could result in a hearing and the Board’s issuing a complaint against the party charged. After the hearing, if the Board finds the party charged committed an unfair labor practice, it would issue findings of fact and could order the charged party to stop the unfair labor practice. A party found by the Board to have committed an unfair labor practice may appeal to the appellate court.

But a review by the Board would take time, during which the teachers would be on strike, not teaching. CPS would be under pressure to end the strike by coming to an agreement with CTU. By the time the Board completes its hearing and issues a finding, the parties may have already reached an agreement.

Thus, although the law requires CTU to wait to strike, there are incentives for CTU to strike sooner.

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