The Chicago Teachers’ Union suspended a planned strike of 30,000 workers as Socialist Worker went to press.
Teachers and school staff had been set to walk out indefinitely from Tuesday of this week.
The union said it had won a “tentative agreement” with the Board of Education.
The agreement must be ratified by union members.
It includes bringing in a two-tier system where new teachers will face worse conditions.
Teachers are in dispute over attacks on their pay and conditions. The Board currently contributes 7 percent of a teacher’s salary into their pension fund and teachers pay in 2 percent.
The Board wanted all teachers to contribute the full amount. The new agreement means this will be phased in for new workers.
Teachers face serious cuts and attacks at the hands of the city’s Democratic Party mayor Rahm Emanuel which harm children’s education.
It isn’t clear if the union has won any concessions on these. Below is an earlier article explaining some of the background to the dispute.
Some 30,000 Chicago teachers and school staff plan to start an indefinite strike on Tuesday of next week. The action follows a 96 percent vote for action on a 90 percent turnout by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) members.
Kristine Mayle, a CTU member and teacher, told Socialist Worker that the “open-ended” strike “is likely to go on for a while”. “The board of education is proposing serious cuts to our pay and benefits,” she said.
Currently the board contributes the equivalent of 7 percent of a teacher’s salary into their pension fund and teachers contribute 2 percent. The new plan would see teachers contribute the full amount.
Kristine added that the pension change would also meaning that teachers will also face higher taxes and healthcare costs.
The city’s Democrat mayor Rahm Emanuel has attacked workers for “choosing” to disrupt children’s education.
But Kristine explained how it’s his cuts and attacks that are harming children.“They’ve laid off close to 2,000 employees since the last school year,” she said. “They have made drastic changes to special education paperwork and staffing resulting in massive class sizes.
“I’ve seen multiple elementary school classes with 37-39 students. Our contract advises us that there should be about ten fewer than that. I heard of a high school social studies class with 60 students.”
She added, “Large class sizes mean all students get less attention. It is much harder to get students to focus and imagine how much time you could put into marking essays if the number went from 150 to 200.”
The cuts affect other things that children need too. “The board is denying basic services that last year we would have been able to provide,” said Kristine. “This includes transport to and from school for students with disabilities.
“Or providing classroom aides to assist students who need one-to-one attention.”
Kristine said, “The board is going to have to back off from the cuts—cuts are unacceptable. Under the current proposal, most teachers would lose money in the first few years of the contract.
“Meanwhile the costs to live in the city continue to increase. We’ve recently had increases on property taxes, water bills and garbage collection fees.”
When the CTU last struck in April, teachers won widespread support from parents and other workers.
Teachers also had a nine-day strike in 2012 where they beat back attacks on conditions.
Kristine said that the current dispute is sharper. “Both sides are further apart than we were in 2012,” she said. “I think most members are anticipating a long strike because it seems like both sides are worlds apart.”