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'When We Fight, We Win!': After 11-Day Strike, Chicago Teachers Reach Deal With Mayor

Although CTU leaders remain frustrated with Mayor Lori Lightfoot, they are celebrating that "we have a better Chicago Public Schools as a result" of the strike.

CTU teachers

The Chicago Teachers Union president and the city's mayor reached a deal Thursday that enables educators to return to their classrooms Friday after 11 days on strike. (Photo: DSA Chicago/Twitter)

Chicago public school teachers and their supporters celebrated Thursday after reaching a deal with Mayor Lori Lightfoot that will enable educators to return to classrooms Friday and make up five days of missed pay from the 11-day strike.

The agreement came out of a two-hour meeting at City Hall between Lightfoot and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president Jesse Sharkey, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. It followed CTU's governing body voting late Wednesday in favor of a tentative deal—contingent on makeup days—and Lightfoot saying Thursday morning that she wanted the union "to come to the table to compromise" on the matter.

On Twitter, CTU confirmed that the strike is over and classes will resume Friday:

The city's teachers, as Common Dreams has reported, decided to strike after months of negotiations over not only pay and benefits for union members but also steps the city can take to improve school conditions for students in a the nation's third-largest district, which serves about 300,000 children. CTU demanded more counselors, social workers, nurses, and teachers for English-language-learners to meet students' needs.

Teachers who participated in the strike and their allies took to social media Thursday to celebrate the agreement:

"What a beautiful day for worker power," National Employment Law Project wrote on Twitter, sharing CTU's announcement. "Thanks so much for your dedication and courage."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary candidates who supported the strike, tweeted: "Congratulations to the teachers and support staff of [CTU] on reaching an agreement with the city. Unions are on the front lines of the struggle for justice in education, and I stand with them in this important fight for what Chicago's students and families deserve."

Amisha Patel, executive director of Grassroots Collaborative said in a statement Thursday that "this tentative agreement marks a historic advancement in the fight for educational justice reforms. It codifies in writing a commitment towards greater racial equity and the schools Chicago's children deserve."

"The lives of Chicago's students and parents will be improved as a direct result of this strike," Patel added. "For over a decade, the Chicago Teachers' Union, a member of Grassroots Collaborative, has fought to improve the conditions not only in their students' classrooms but in their neighborhoods and communities as well. The advancements made in this tentative agreement  demonstrate what is possible when labor unions and community residents come together to bargain for the common good."

CTU's 25,000 members walked off the job on Oct. 17. They were joined by school security guards, bus aides, special education classroom assistants, and custodians who are collectively represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, whose members on Wednesday approved a new five-year contract with Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

The Chicago chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, in a series of tweets, told members of both unions that "your resolve and energy not only inspired Chicago, you have inspired people around the world."

Chicago DSA added: "Congratulations on your hard fought win, we will remain in solidarity with you forever!"

The organization also said that "the fight for educational justice is not over" and called out Lightfoot for showing "her true colors," charging that the mayor "doesn't care about Chicago's children or the working class."

Lightfoot, a first-term mayor, has provoked nationwide criticism and comparisons to her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel, throughout the contract talks.

While praising the city's teachers as "the people who make Chicago go 'round" and emphasizing that "we have a better Chicago Public Schools as a result of the last 10 days," CTU vice president Stacey Davis Gates told reporters Thursday that she is "deeply disappointed" with Lightfoot, noting that the mayor "did not start negotiating until we went on strike."

During a press conference announcing the deal Thursday, Lightfoot said that "in the interest of our students and our parents who have been suffering, it was important today to make sure that we got our kids back in class... In the spirit of compromise, we agreed. It was a hard-fought discussion."

Sharkey declined an invitation to appear at the press conference. CTU's members and the residents of Chicago, he told reporters, "don't need to see me smiling with the mayor."

"They need to see we have a tentative agreement, we now have a return to work agreement," Sharkey said. "Frankly it's been hard on teachers to be out this long, and it's been hard on parents to be out this long. It's been hard on our students. And so I just didn't feel like doing a celebration lap with the mayor right now."

The union president added that there is still work to be done to get teachers behind the deal and he is "not going to say it's going to be a slam-dunk."

The Chicago Tribune pointed out that "in fact, technically, the union vote was merely to suspend the strike, with ratification pending."

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