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Chicago Teachers Union Votes 90 per cent in Favor of Strike

Teachers take stand against Mayor Emanuel's 'aggressive school reform'

Common Dreams staff

Teachers union chief Karen Lewis called the strike vote an “indictment” of the strained relationship with CPS officials (José M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

On Monday, 90 per cent of Chicago Teachers Union members, roughly 23,780 city employees, voted to support a strike if one is called, amid tumultuous talks with Chicago Public Schools officials over this year's 'aggressive school reform'.

Since taking office a year ago, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has denied the teachers a 4 per cent raise, pushed through a longer work day and lead a drive for more privately run charter schools.

However, the talks continue; the teachers union and CPS meet with an arbitrator up to four times a week.

If talks fail and a strike is decided upon, the teachers will likely walk out sometime at the beginning of the school year.

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Chicago Tribune: 9 out of 10 CPS teachers authorize strike

Chicago teachers countered Mayor Rahm Emanuel's aggressive approach to school reform with the most powerful weapon in their arsenal, giving overwhelming authorization for a strike if contract talks continue to flounder.

Nearly 90 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members, some 23,780 city employees, voted to support a strike if one is called, the union said Monday. Union President Karen Lewis said the three-day vote was an "indictment" of the increasingly strained relationship between teachers and Emanuel's hand-picked administration at Chicago Public Schools.

"I think that is a very significant number and should put an end to all the speculation about how people in schools really feel," Lewis said. [...]

"For some reason, this administration has behaved as if the union was some out-of-touch bureaucracy only speaking for ourselves," Lewis said. "The dominant narrative among the so-called (education) reformers … has been that the reason why CPS is in such bad shape is that its teachers are incompetent."

If progress isn't made this summer, the earliest that teachers can walk out is Aug. 17, four days after classes begin for CPS' early track students. Most of the district's 400,000 students begin the new school year Sept. 4.

Hoping to avoid the first teachers strike in CPS since 1987 — a 19-day walkout that was the longest in the city's history — the union and school district are meeting with the arbitrator up to four times a week, said union Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

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