LAKESHORE EAST — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday cheered the Chicago Teachers Union's softened stance on a potential strike, speaking as if a walkout had definitely been averted.
"The good news is they agreed not to strike," Emanuel said during a news conference on Lower Lower Wacker Drive.
Emanuel complimented union Vice President Jesse Sharkey on remarks attributed to him in the Sun-Times on Monday stating that teachers were leaning away from a strike later this month.
The union, however, said not so fast.
"The union’s members have yet to decide when or if we will go on strike in the coming days or during the next school year," said spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin.
"State law requires a 10-day notice to our employer if we intend to do so," Gadlin added. "Until such notice is given, the CTU is asking all of its members to continue to show solidarity in CPS buildings by wearing red on Fridays, using lunch breaks to talk about long-term revenue solutions and continuing to work with parents and students as this school year creeps to a close."
Emanuel said, "I don't know" what dictated the union's change in position, adding, "I don't think we should be talking about a strike. I think we should be talking about finishing the year." Classes end June 21.
Teachers do not get paid during the summer, and some are worried about the idea of losing out on one of their last checks if a strike were to happen toward the end of the school year, Sharkey told the Sun-Times.
The union is also worried about how much public support they could garner for a May strike if parents have to scramble to find supervision for kids after already having to do so for the union's one-day strike April 1, according to the Sun-Times.
CPS and the union are still working toward a labor contract for teachers. Both sides are currently in what's termed a 30-day "cooling-off period" after the union rejected a fact-finding report on stalled negotiations in mid-April. When those 30 days are over, May 16, teachers could go on strike, although they would have to give the district 10 days' notice later this week to do so.
Emanuel said Chicago Public Schools had the money on hand to make the last payrolls of the school year even if teachers don't walk out.
He also called on the union to join in lobbying for additional education funding from the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
"To the [union] leadership, I would say join us in convincing Springfield to responsibly fund education in the State of Illinois and no longer penalize our poor children," Emanuel said.
He urged the union to press its rhetoric to point out biased state education spending and make it more fair and balanced — in part by increasing funding for CPS, predominantly a low-income school district.
Again, however, the union rebuffed the mayor's suggestion.
"The city has the money to avert the crisis in our schools," Gadlin said. "Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked members of the Chicago Board of Education would rather take their fiscal woes out on the hides of educators and other school employees. This is unacceptable."
Union President Karen Lewis has previously rejected the idea of joining together in lobbying Springfield, saying, "We're not going hand in hand with them to cut our own throats."
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