The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Teachers Union Won't Strike May 1 After Labor Board Rules Against It

By Heather Cherone | April 5, 2017 4:38pm | Updated on April 7, 2017 11:41am
 Chicago Teachers Union protest strike in front of the Board of Education.
Chicago Teachers Union protest strike in front of the Board of Education.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Michelle Gavin

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers Union won't stage a one-day strike May 1, union leaders said Wednesday night. 

After the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board ruled that a one-day strike wasn't legal, the union voted against a plan to walk out of class May 1 to protest the financial crisis engulfing the Chicago Public Schools that might force officials to end school 20 days early to avoid running out of money.

But if CPS imposes more furlough days on teachers, union leadership will call an emergency meeting to consider striking. 

Any walkout requires a vote of the union's membership.

"While there will be no May 1 walkout, we will continue to stand together in solidarity with our sidents, parents, immigrant community and other labor and community allies to demand that out district receives the revenue," CTA president Karen Lewis said.

Nearly a year ago, teachers went on a one-day strike on April 1, 2016, as negotiations with Chicago officials over a new contract faltered. A new deal was reached in October.

The union's one-day strike in 2016 was ruled illegal by the Illinois labor board, which said teachers who walk out of class would not be paid. The board on Wednesday said a May 1 strike didn't met legal requirements.

Chicago Public Schools officials are preparing to take legal action against the union to block the walkout.

May 1 is International Workers Day. Large protests are already planned by several groups.

Union officials hinted a strike could come if CPS forces more furloughs on the teachers, who already have been forced to take four unpaid days off because of budget problems.

"There's nothing off the table," Lewis told reporters.

Chicago Public Schools faces a $129 million budget deficit — created when Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have helped CPS pay its pension bill.

That shortfall threatens to force officials to end the school year on June 1 — 20 days early.

Chicago school officials have sued the state, alleging the way Illinois funds schools is discriminatory.

Lewis said teachers are "frustrated and outraged" with Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, saying they "pointlessly bicker" while the school system suffers.

The fiscal crisis for Chicago Public Schools began in November, when Rauner blamed Illinois Senate President John Cullerton for violating a compromise made in June that allowed schools to open in September. Part of that deal promised Chicago schools $215 million to help cover its pension obligation in return for statewide "pension reform," a long-held goal of the governor.

But in a December message to legislators, Rauner said he would not sign a school-funding bill because it would amount to a "bailout" for CPS. The governor also wants lawmakers to adopt his agenda, which he said will spur business growth in Illinois, as part of a budget agreement.

Cullerton denied breaking the agreement and said he was willing to continue working on pension reform with the governor.

Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan have been locked in a bitter fight over the Illinois budget that has lasted nearly two years.

In January, CPS Chief Executive Forrest Claypool ordered four unpaid furlough days for all CPS employees to save $35 million. The union has objected to that move, officials said.

The next scheduled furlough day for teachers is Friday.

In February, Claypool saved $5 million by canceling professional development events for central office staff and slashed charter school budgets by $15 million by the end of the year, officials said.

Claypool cut another $31 million by freezing a portion of schools' discretionary funds, which can be used to buy textbooks and technology and pay for after-school programs, field trips and hourly staff.

Those cuts leave a CPS deficit of $129 million, officials said.