Teachers union plan walkout at schools on April 1

CPS Attorneys say act would violate state law

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Karen Lewis

Chicago Crusader staff report

Leaders for the Chicago Teachers Union will ask its members to walk off their jobs Friday, April 1 for a one-day demonstration, Vice President Jesse Sharkey said on Monday.

The announcement came as the CTU pushes for public education funding and contract negotiations. Sharkey called the one-day walkout an act of civil disobedience designed to marshal support for new taxes and revenue for public education. As contract negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools drag on, CTU leaders hope the walkout will push forward its demands and end a labor disagreement that’s now 9 months old. Since July, CTU members have been working without a contract.

“We will not go to work on April 1. We will close the schools on April 1,” Sharkey said. “What we would hope is that the public joins us and that we see this as a one-day action to fight for school funding.”

The union’s House Delegates plans a special meeting next week to approve the one-day walkout.

“We’re saying that we’re arguing for picket lines going up at schools on April 1, and that school would not be in session that day,” Sharkey said in news reports.

CPS attorneys say the CTU has no legal justification to strike because of a state law that forbids the organization to strike during the final “fact finding” phase of contract negotiations,

Under state law, CTU cannot strike until the completion of a final phase of contract negotiations known as “fact-finding,” which won’t be completed until May.

Union leaders disagree. Sharkey says the issue is not about what’s legal. He says a walkout is a “moral necessity” to call attention to a crisis in CPS.

CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement:

“With respect to legal action, CPS continues to look at our options. There is no question that a one-day strike before fact-finding concludes is not only illegal, but also not in the best interest of our children.”

The CTU had threatened to strike after Claypool announced the District would stop paying the bulk of union members’ pension contributions. He later reversed his decision.

CTU, distributed bulletins to members last weekend. They described the walkout as a “fight of epic proportions with labor and community allies to shut down the city and state to demand the revenue our communities deserve for vital services and schools.”

Union leaders blame Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner as enemies who have stifled contract talks throughout the negotiations.

Nearly 400,000 students would be affected by the walkout. Most   of the students are minorities.

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