The deal that ended a seven-day Chicago teachers strike will be put up for union approval early next month, Chicago Teachers Union officials said Thursday.
Packets of information, including the new contract and ballots, should arrive in schools on Friday, Sept. 28, CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle said.
Due to union rules that any contract must be approved within 10 days of the suspension of a strike, “Everybody has to vote sometime on Oct. 2,” she said.
Votes on the 197-page contract will be tallied immediately, though the count could take a day or two.
A simple majority of those who vote is needed for passage.
Thousands of teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district walked off the job on Sept. 10 after more than a year of slow, contentious negotiations over salary, health benefits and job security.
Shortly after Emanuel took office in May 2011, the school board unanimously voted to cancel a 4 percent pay increase in the final year of the teachers’ existing contract. Months later, Emanuel’s administration began coercing teachers at some schools to extend the length of their school day.
The teachers’ previous contract expired June 30 and both sides weeks later rejected a report assembled by an independent fact-finder. That set the stage for the work stoppage the mayor said was “unnecessary” and one of “choice.”
While leadership on both sides continued the back-and-forth of contract negotiations, thousands of teachers and their supporters for days took to the city streets in a massive show of solidarity.
On Monday, Emanuel and CPS attorneys filed a request for an injunction to force teachers off the picket lines, claiming the outstanding issues, as publicly stated by the CTU — teacher evaluations and recalls — weren’t legal reasons for a work stoppage.
A provision added to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act last year prohibits teachers from striking on issues unrelated to economic matters; those involving pay and benefits.
A Cook County judge declined the mayor’s request to hold a same-day hearing on the injunction request. Instead, that hearing would have been held Wednesday. With Tuesday’s action by the House of Delegates, that hearing is no longer necessary.
Teachers walked off the job for 19 days in October 1987. Prior to that, there had been nine strikes between 1969 and 1987.
This latest strike forced busy parents to find alternative care for their children. Many said they exhausted available vacation time. Others made use of the nearly 150 “Children First” sites that provided students with alternative programming and meals.
As the strike entered its second week, some frustrated parents became more vocal in their demand that both sides end the stalemate. A small group of parents on Monday marched outside CTU headquarters holding signs that read “If you care about the kids, go back to work” and “350,000 CPS Hostages! Let our children learn” and “Don’t say you care, show it!”
NEW HAVEN — Is the fire union contract heading to binding arbitration? And could the police contract be following on its heels?
The city recently declared an impasse in negotiations with the Fire Department union, paving the way for arbitration.
But the fire union president questioned why the city would declare an impasse in negotiations when, in his view, there hasn’t been much negotiating.
“It was that ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ type negotiations,” said Lt. James Kottage, president of Fire Fighters Local 825. “We’re opting to leave it.”
According to Kottage, negotiating sessions so far have involved ground rules and “punctuation” more so than substantive topics.
The union, he said, isn’t asking for the world. He said firefighters understand the financial climate and said the union is “more than willing” to give some pension and health care reforms that will generate significant, immediate savings for the city and will result in “massive savings down the road.”
He said the labor director declared in impasse so early in the process, that the two sides never really conducted “good faith negotiations.”
Elizabeth Benton, city spokeswoman, issued a statement on the status of negotiations:
“The city has had eight meetings with Local 825 since April, and has resolved zero substantive issues. We are at an impasse. State law provides a mechanism to resolve collective bargaining issues not handled in negotiations, and that is binding arbitration. The city has chosen to avail itself of that option.”
The city remains willing to continue conversations with the union “parallel to the binding arbitration process.”
Both the police and fire departments have been working with expired contracts for more than a year. The police union has had one session so far. The first fire contract session occurred in April.
Marjan Mashhadi took over as labor relations director in November. According to the city, resolving contract issues with the fire and police departments has been “a top priority since she began.”
Even before the formal negotiations, she said in a statement, the sides had multiple and unfruitful informal conversations.
Whether either public safety department’s contract will actually go to arbitration remains to be seen. Negotiations are just that, and the threat of arbitration at times is brinkmanship used as a sledge hammer to make the other side blink.
In the last fiscal year, the city ran a $7.5 million deficit. A large chunk of that was the result of anticipated but unrealized savings from concessions in labor contracts. Benton said the police and fire unions contracts were not included in those anticipated savings. Those unrealized savings, in part, prompted two rating agencies in July to downgrade the city’s financial outlook from stable to negative.
City officials have said for years that the current pension and health care provisions were not financially sustainable.
“We still have major contracts out with police and fire and that bears much on the stable to negative outlook,” said Mayor John DeStefano Jr. at the time.
Officer Louis Cavaliere Jr., the police union president, said his team has met once with the city so far.
While he didn’t want to sound the alarm, he said, “the first round of negotiations didn’t go so well.”
“I just got the sense that they couldn’t care less about our proposals and what we’re willing to negotiate and would be happy to go right to arbitration.”
The city last went to arbitration with a union last year in a months-long bitter battle with school custodians, and the city came out victorious.
Kottage drew a distinction between the two situations. The custodian rank-and-file rejected a tentative agreement reached by city and union negotiators before the city sought arbitration.
That’s not the case with the firefighters.
“We’re not afraid of arbitration,” he said.