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Overwhelming 'yes' on strike authorization, union says

Chicago Teachers Union officials announced Monday that 90 percent of the union’s entire membership – well over the 75 percent required by law –voted in favor of authorizing a potential strike during three days at the polls.

“The results are not a win. They are an indictment on the state of the relationship between the ‘management’ of CPS and its largest labor force,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement that also took aim at what the union calls “outside groups” that have become involved in Chicago education reform.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the vote “inspiring” and “instructive.”

“Many doubted the 75 percent threshold could be met; few believed it would be exceeded,” she said in a prepared statment… “This level of participation and engagement by Chicago’s educators is both inspiring and instructive. It represents not just anger and frustration, but also a real commitment to Chicago’s students and a desire to be active participants in building strong public schools that help all Chicago children thrive.”

Lewis said union outreach to parentsauthorization_1.jpg, which has been going on much of the school year, would continue. 

Teachers would not go on strike until the fall, after a fact-finding panel has issued recommendations on some of the issues at play. The final decision to strike would be made by the union’s 800-member House of Delegates, which includes representatives from each school.

Typically, the union’s entire membership would not be asked to vote again until the union and CPS reach a tentative contract agreement. However, the union has the ability to put the district’s offers or the fact- finder’s report to a vote if it chooses to.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the union set up the strike authorization vote as either teachers had to vote yes or nothing. “My frustration is that they were asked to vote with inaccurate information,” he said.

Brizard said he doesn’t think the district should challenge the strike authorization vote, though he added that it is the decision of the board of education. A legal challenge would just be another “distraction.”

Brizard has been saying in public appearances in recent weeks that he thinks the district should give teachers a raise. But he has declined to be specific as to how much of a raise. According to CPS and the union, CPS is offering 2 percent for one year and then in subsequent years wants salary increases to be based on a variety of factors, including student growth. CTU has asked for almost 30 percent.

On Monday, Brizard would not be any more specific about what he thinks the district should wind up giving teachers.  He said the question will be answered by the independent fact-finder, who he called “balanced” and “reasonable.” Yet he didn’t say that he will agree to do what the fact-finder recommends.

The fact-finding panel’s recommendations could become teachers’ contract, unless either side rejects them. But the union has criticized this idea, saying that the fact-finder can only rule on “a very small number of issues.”

“We have an entire contract to negotiate,” Lewis said. She also asserted that the impetus for the vote had come from the union rank-and-file. “We are being led by what our members have told us,” she said.

Altogether, the union said in a news release, about 92 percent of teachers cast a vote. Of those, 98 percent were in favor of authorizing a strike, with just 2 percent against. Factoring in those who did not vote, 90 percent of the union’s membership cast “yes” ballots.

Faith leaders get involved

Clergy from the pro-union Arise Chicago Worker Center held a press conference shortly after the CTU’s announcement in an effort to vouch for the union’s figures.  Allaying concerns about the vote “allows the important work of negotiations to go forward” so that a contract can be in place before school begins, said John Thomas, a visiting professor at Chicago Theological Seminary.

Twelve volunteers from the group were present during the vote counting, Thomas said. They spot-checked the union’s vote counts, made sure that tally sheet totals matched, sat in on union rules committee meetings, and signed over the seals on 47 boxes of counted ballots before they were put into a storage closet.

“We had full access to the entire process,” Thomas said, which lasted until after midnight on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 8:15 p.m. on Saturday.

“They tended to err on the side of removing a ballot if there were questions” such as blank ballots or those with two boxes checked, Thomas said.

Later Monday afternoon, a group of 100 pastors came together to ask Lewis and Brizard to attend a meeting with faith leaders. Robert Belfort, a pastor at New Beginnings-Pilsen, said the pastors are asking that union and district leadership keep them informed and resolve their differences.

If a strike should occur, the community would suffer, Belfort said. “There is a huge domino effect,” Belfort said. Not only could children be victims of violence while out of school, but parents also might have to pay for child care, he said.

But Belfort said the pastors do not support the district over the union or vice versa. He said his church, like others, gets safe haven money from the city to run programs after school and during vacations. However, his wife is a teacher and he sees her point of view.

“Most parents understand where teachers are coming from,” he said. “If you are asked to work longer, you would like to be paid more and not just told, ‘If you don’t like it, there’s the door.’ ”

It’s obvious to Belfort that there will wind up being a compromise between what CPS is offering and what CTU wants. He said the district needs to present their real offer, sooner rather than later.

“They say they don’t have money, but they will find it,” he said.

Members authorized a strike, but did not walk out, in 1991. Concessions from the district left teachers with a 3 percent pay raise that year followed by a 7 percent raise in 1992. In fall 2003, the union’s House of Delegates set a Dec. 4 strike date, but concessions from CPS led the union’s membership to accept a tentative contract agreement and vote no to a strike by mid-November.

Photo by Mark Chong Man Yuk.


Danny V wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Intrusive SB-7

Catalyst writes: "the law passed last year that made it harder for teachers to strike by raising the bar for the vote from 50 percent to 75 percent"

Actually, this isn't true. SB-7 represents the first time that a legislature has intruded upon internal union governance to set a threshhold. There was no legal threshhold befoe SB-7 set it at 75%. The Union itself determined if and when it would strike.

And for all the other teacher unions in the state, that is still true. This was another example of special legislation for Chicago only.

30 year Vet wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

More insulting comments from Brizard

I wonder if Brizard knows that every time he opens his mouth, he pushes MORE teachers into agreeing with the Union. I am insulted by his comments that the Union somehow manipulated us and convinced us how to vote, when if we had just listened to 'him" , it would have been different. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. The reality which Brizard refuses to admit is that "he" is the one disconnected from teachers, and no matter how many teachers there are in his family tree, he is not in touch with teachers or people at the school level in any way.
If he had made more robo-calls , the vote would have been 95% !!

brizzard wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

now we know

Rememebr they warned us about Brizzard .....he basically left Rochester..something tells me he will be gone soon.....Rahm???? Don't even get me started!

Walked the Line wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

There's A History Here

Mr. Brizard may be a former teacher, but what he is not is a former Chicago teacher. There is a world of difference between the Chicago teaching experience and other teaching jobs. Since 1969--the date of the first CTU strike--there have been many contract negotiations that have broken down. Teachers are familiar with the signs. They need to be prepared, hence the strike authorization vote now.
Mr. Brizard can make the talk show rounds and schmooze the journalists. Maybe some of them will buy into the idea that there is a fair resolution being written by the independent fact-finder and the teachers are once again wrong.
The question however has to be asked. Have you heard of Rahm Emanuel? Even a brand new teacher in the sytem can recognize that compromise is not in his lexicon. There are 50 Democrat aldermen and women and they can't reign in 1 Democrat mayor. Their motto should be "We Rubber Stamp With Pride." The governing process in Chicago has been dead for a long time.

Avenger wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Brizzard the Buzzard

Brizzard the Buzzard inspires me everyday to wholeheartedly support the CTU. In his response he essentially said 90% of the voters were wronfully influenced by the CTU leadership. If he really think thats true CPS is in worse shape than I thought. Look at the data Rham! Anaylze the data Brizzard. There's no way humanly possible 90% of the voters were clueless and heavily influenced. NO!! 90% of the voters were well informed and fed up. Rhampulstilskin should send the Wizard of Oz back to NYC. It's a wrap!!

lobewiper wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Union strategy from this point forward

The CTU would benefit from far more public support than it has received thus far. I advise it to now focus more intensively on the desperate needs of many CPS children for quality remedial instruction. Many kids are entering kinder-garten one to three years behind. CPS has now almost ended its second year of RTI (Response to Intervention) and next to nothing has been done to meet this very important initiative which is mandated by the Federal government. The ISBE advised CPS to implement RTI in fall, 2010, but this has utterly failed in all but a handful of schools and staff and teachers remain without adequate guidance/support. The citizens of Chicago should be marching in the streets over this failure, but I don't recall any CTU official even mentioning this vitally important program, which is essentially data-based and data-guided remedial education. CTU leadership, please address this issue!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Brizzard Challenge

Have CTU take brizzard to five schools of our choice, with cameras. Let the news film the bad conditions that exist. Let them see how students act and see the rotting pipes and old basemnt lunchrooms. This would open the eyes of the public! Then film Brizzards office and Clark Street offices! Let them Film a room of 34 kids on Aug 13 at the beggining of the year...with a thermometer!

I think the public would be convinced.....

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

spelling police

sorry i meant
Aug 13 at the beginning of the year

Observer wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago


30 percent for poor student growth. No other business would allow this. Some teachers should get a cut in pay.

Vinicius de Mello wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Cheers to CTU

Thank you CTU for keeping it real and about the facts and data. Brizard, sorry but your lack of data and research to support your educational policies. Brizard, your Rochester teachers gave you a 95 % no confidence vote! Brizard, you can't hide your incompetence! On the reals, your sad letters to parents is a waste of cellulose. Parents look at their school and see no library, no librarian, broken air conditioners, ... and say.. CPS are lying!

lobewiper wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

“The results are not a win.

“The results are not a win. They are an indictment on the state of the relationship between the ‘management’ of CPS and its largest labor force,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement that also took aim at what the union calls “outside groups” that have become involved in Chicago education reform.

Ms. Lewis has here put her finger on one of the central problems of CPS: its manifest and abject failure to work collaboratively with union and teacher personnel to improve education in the City of Chicago. Here we are, in the third largest school district in the country, and cannot even implement federally and state mandated Response to Intervention because CPS has not responded to the building-level needs for adequate guidance and appropriate examples of what needs to be done.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Jonah Edelman where are you?

Love to hear his response to this vote. Did the CTU send him flowers?

urbanteach wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

what is more insulting?

I can't come to grips with what is more insulting. Brizard continues to argue that the "union" misguided teachers into this vote. I am insulted that Mr. Brizard doesn't understand that the "union" is not a separate entity and that we the rank and file members are the "union" not just our elected leaders. Or, maybe I am more insulted that he can't perceive the rank and file as having the ability to define our own argument. Please take your toys, leave the sandbox and go home or won't they have you either?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago


The observer is on the outside looking in and knows absolutely nothing about teaching and learning if he feels that the teacher is the only factor in student achievement. Had he a morsel of a brain, he would consider poverty, parenting, school, religion, homelessness, gangs, drugs, violence and all the other tramatic factors that would make a student not give a damn about anything except survival. "You can lead a horse to the river, but you cannot make him drink."

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago
Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Teachers Strike

Parents and students should strike! While CPS and the CTU politic our children continue to be underserved by the system they BOTH maintain. When the dust settles from this latest power/pr struggle, how many children in the CPS system will be reading at or above their reading level? Neither of them (CPS or CTU) should be proud of what they have "accomplished"!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

Strike Vote

Take 'em down, Karen.

Taxpayers want schools that work and supporting teachers is one way to do it. As a taxpayer, I am not against Charters (that work), or closing failing schools, or other forms of schooling that are beneficial to students. What I know that does not work is when Adminstration and Labor can not come to reasonable solutions.

Like our country we can not function with this level of national confusion, it is bad for the people and bad for business. As much as we like vilify corporations, they are a necessary entity, which in some cases, do good. So, CTU, do whatever you need to do to fix it, as it is clear your administrators are not willing or capable to work with you to draft a solution.

Maybe a bit of labor unrest is what we need.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago


As a taxpayer the fact that CPS administrators write in various communications with the larger public, that they are distinguished and committed to excellence in education - this self-praising means exactly what to me? I am interested in results and what I see is labor unrest, anemic student achievement, abysmal graduation rates, and chronic staff and teacher turnover. Tell me how is one teacher going to met the needs of 35 students who are dealing with poverty, violence in the family and community, malnutrition (flamin' hots for breakfast do not constitute proper nutrition), and drug abuse? Should I send an owl to Minerva McGonagall for an answer?

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