More talks over the weekend: Live updates from Day 2 of Chicago’s teacher strike

With signs of progress on Day 1, but no deal, teachers are returning to picket lines again on Day Two of Chicago’s teachers union strike.

We’ll be spending the day watching negotiations closely, to see if the Chicago Teachers Union and City Hall can work out policy issues beyond class size. Fueled by coffee and a stack of Chalkbeat reporter notepads, our team will also catch a morning visit with the mayor, visit picket lines, and bring you other important news about the strike.

We’ll post updates here throughout the day. You can catch up on what happened on Day One here, or just skip ahead to Thursday’s end-of-day stories about the state of negotiations, how families are experiencing the strike, and 12 great signs from picket lines (plus one really cute dog).

7:40 p.m. Talks head into weekend

Negotiations between the Chicago teachers union and city officials will continue into the weekend after Day 2 of a strike ended with the union reporting progress but much work to do. 

“The theme for today is that we’ve seen some movement, but it’s not enough,” said Jennifer Johnson, the union’s chief of staff. Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said bargaining will continue Saturday and Sunday.

Ariel did a roundup after talks ended around 5:30 p.m. Friday at Malcolm X College: Union officials reported winning more social workers, nurses, special education case management and bilingual program coordinators, with targets and phase-in language. They said the district also agreed to provide one additional full-time position for the 20% of schools with the highest need.  

4:40 p.m. Solving class size — or not

Negotiators have gained some headway on the issue of class size. But talks with teachers on the lines illustrate just how huge the challenge they face is.

Ariel spoke Thursday at Grissom Elementary to Melissa Ramirez, who struggles with 45 sixth grade students in her science classroom. Students can’t hear well, chairs crash into each other, and Ramirez is diverted while some students need translation.

In Chicago schools, crowded classes are so common that teachers know that the likely contract solution — hiring more classroom aides — won’t resolve the problem. They fear that they won’t benefit from lowering class size unless penalties hit the district for exceeding caps.

To hear from more teachers, check out Cassie and Ariel’s story here.

3:25 p.m. Pipeline problems?

One of City Hall’s hesitations about writing higher nurse and social worker staffing levels into the contract has been whether there are enough of those people to fill new positions.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot raised the question again this morning — and quickly drew pushback from people with expertise in the city’s social work ecosystem.

2:40 p.m. On the scene in Daley Plaza

Chicago Teachers Union members rallied in downtown Chicago, Oct. 18, 2019. (Kalyn Belsha/Chalkbeat)

Union members shut down the streets downtown again today as they convened for a citywide rally. As they marched down LaSalle they chanted, “Get up, get down, Chicago is a union town,” Kalyn reports. She also said she could hear teachers practicing upcoming chants using a handout the union distributed.

“I feel like the moves that have been made yesterday, they were a step in the right direction,” Phebe Myers, a second-year middle school humanities teacher at Pilsen Community Academy, told Kalyn. “But I don’t feel that they’re far enough, especially when it comes to pay for [special education aides], when it comes to having a nurse full-time in every school, a social worker full-time in every school. I would not be surprised if we were still on strike on Monday.”

Mary Kay Nielsen, a veteran teacher who works at Durkin Park Elementary on the city’s Southwest Side, said she also thought the strike would continue into next week.

“I was praying that it would be over by Monday. I figured like they’ll come to a deal by the weekend, we’ll take Monday to look it over, decide, start school on Tuesday,” she told Kalyn. “But just because I don’t think we’re hearing any movement, I’m thinking like, oh my god, this could be a little bit longer. We will stick it out until we get what we want.”

Chicago Teachers Union members rallied in downtown Chicago, Oct. 18, 2019. (Yana Kunichoff/Chalkbeat)

1:30 p.m. Afternoon bargaining update

The latest from Yana:

City negotiators have offered proposals on some issues in writing today, union officials said in a Friday afternoon bargaining update. But the offers aren’t yet enough to come to an agreement, the officials said. The teams talked about special education in the morning, and in the afternoon will discuss staffing. The press conference also offered a glimpse into the conversation on a particularly contentious demand: an extra 30 minutes of prep time for elementary school teachers. Union officials clarified that they are not pressing for students to have less instructional time but for teachers to start work earlier and be paid for that time. Union chief Jesse Sharkey and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates acknowledged the pain and inconvenience of the strike, but stood by their promise that it would lead to improvements for students and teachers alike. “We don’t think about inconvenience when we have school clerks giving insulin shots,” Gates said, referring to the nurse shortage the union hopes to address with its new contract. Without the pressure of the strike, she said, the union wouldn’t have seen some of the district’s recent positive proposals. As the press conference finished up, Sharkey headed to the downtown rally, which today will begin at City Hall, and Gates walked briskly back into bargaining.

12:36 p.m. Lunch break

I guess we know what they’re eating at Jones College Prep as this morning’s pickets wind down …

12:06 p.m. “No rally. No sleep.”

This morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her top negotiator asked top teachers union officials to stay at the bargaining table all day, rather than head downtown for a second citywide rally. At first, it wasn’t clear whether the union officials would agree. But now, Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates says she’ll be there. Here’s how she revealed her plans on Twitter:

10:30 a.m. Renewed focus on homeless students

Teachers at McCutcheon Elementary School in Uptown on the second day of the Chicago teacher strike, Oct. 18, 2019. Many McCutcheon students are homeless. (Cassie Walker Burke/Chalkbeat)

With negotiations veering Thursday toward support of homeless students, Cassie stopped by McCutcheon Elementary School in Uptown, which draws students from several homeless shelters in the area. Here’s her report:

State report card data shows a homeless population of 16%, but the counselor there, Katie Malcolm, said that the number of students in “temporary living situations” is 20 to 30% at any given point. Malcolm is trained to help those students — in addition to her other counseling duties — and she said several area non-profits and small businesses step up with coat drives, boot drives, and other useful assistance. But she said she lacks background in affordable housing issues and that schools like hers need to have the “ability to help families find and navigate housing and to know their rights at a shelter.” On Thursday, the union publicly surfaced a new demand: adding staff to finding housing and mental health support for homeless students. The city is offering to fund a homeless liaison position for every school with more than 90 homeless students, about 12 schools currently, but the union wants more people dedicated to the issue. Large classes, which have become a central issue in negotiations, are not an issue at McCutcheon, said two teachers there. Kindergarten teacher Tiina Villareal has 21 students in her class, while Kylie Brokenrope, a special education teacher, is one of three teachers working with 20 students in a pre-kindergarten class that has students with and without special needs. They said they were galvanized to join the picket line on the issue of more school nurses. “We have children with allergies, and asthma, who take medicines, who get cuts and scrapes on the playground — we need a nurse more than one day a week,” said Villareal. “When you are working with younger children, their needs are amplified.”

10:20 a.m. Weekend plans and ‘mission moments’

The city and union are both gearing up for a weekend without a contract resolution. Late Thursday, Chicago Public Schools announced that athletic competitions and practices are canceled for this weekend, as well as the “Highly Selective College Fair” scheduled at Whitney Young High School.

And in a newsletter Friday morning, the Chicago Teachers Union notes that while there won’t be picket lines over the weekend, there will be other events across the city about labor issues in Chicago. “It’s important that CTU members attend there and continue to build support for our fight in our neighborhoods,” the newsletter says.

The union newsletter also offers a suggestion: “Headed to a place of worship this weekend? Contact your faith [sic] own pastor or rabbi in advance to ask for a two-minute mission moment on Sunday to speak about the strike.” (A sample speech is available.)

Do the weekend plans indicate a strike that will continue into next week? That’s not clear, but this morning, Cassie heard a union delegate tell her colleagues on the picket line to plan to return on Monday morning at 6:30 a.m., signs in hand.

10 a.m. A dispatch from bargaining

Yana’s spending the day at Malcolm X College, where city-union talks have resumed after breaking Thursday evening with no deal but a step forward on class size. Here’s her first dispatch from the scene:

Only a handful of news trucks were parked outside the community college’s main entrance. At one point, shortly after 9:30 a.m., Chicago Public Schools chief operating officer Arne Rivera walked briskly into the building, saying over his shoulder that he hoped for a productive day.  Friday’s issue of contention, even before bargaining begins on specific contract points, is the negotiation schedule. At a press conference on Friday morning, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she wants bargaining 10 hours a day, seven days a week, with union leaders Jesse Sharkey and Stacy Davis Gates at the table — the same request that the city’s top negotiator, Jim Franczek, made earlier in a note that the union shared on Twitter. But teachers on the bargaining team say the two officers don’t have the subject area expertise on every contract element so have delegated the authority to shape demands to other members of the bargaining team. That means Sharkey and Davis Gates aren’t always needed at the table, the teachers said. Still, it’s unclear whether Sharkey and Gates will attend this afternoon’s downtown rally.  There’s also been talk of food: a Panera delivery person brought in bags with breakfast for negotiators, and the union’s team is expecting a delivery of pizza donated by supportive charter school teachers.

9:20 a.m. Pickets going strong

Our visits to schools across the city should dispel any concerns that striking union members might not be able to keep up the energy they displayed on Thursday. Here’s a snapshot from the scene at Suder Montessori Elementary School:

Teachers at Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School on the second day of the Chicago teacher strike, Oct. 18, 2019. (Yana Kunichoff/Chalkbeat)

9 a.m. First strike

Outside Boone Elementary School in West Ridge, Cassie met a fifth-grade teacher who is on strike for the first time.

“Yesterday’s rally downtown — it was overwhelming,” said Bridget Dougherty, who has been in the classroom for three years, first at a school with many homeless students and now at Boone. “The number of people driving by honking and cheering far outweighs the number of people who yell, “Get back to work.’”

8:40 a.m. On the breakfast line

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, served breakfast to children on the second day of Chicago’s teachers strike, Oct. 18, 2019. (Kalyn Belsha/Chalkbeat)

Community centers and YMCAs across the city are continuing to serve children whose classes are canceled because of the strike. Mayor Lori Lightfoot visited one of them Friday morning, Gads Hill Center in Pilsen, where she doled out Cheerios, yogurt, and bananas alongside her wife, Amy Eshleman.

Shouldn’t Lightfoot be in negotiations? “I’ll go to the table when we are close and it’s helpful to get a deal done,” she told reporters. For now, she said, “My primary concern is making sure children are safe.”

8:28 a.m. “Wasn’t how I saw this school year going”

Parents across the city are having to decide how talk to their children about the strike. This can be complicated. Here’s a reflection from one mom:

8:15 a.m. About those issues

So what are those issues that Mayor Lori Lightfoot lamented Thursday night hadn’t been discussed in “weeks”? We obtained an internal Chicago Teachers Union document that outlines 14 “priority issues” and 21 more that aren’t union priorities — plus where each stood on the eve of the strike. Kalyn has the breakdown.

8 a.m. Morning music

For the second day, a small group of protesting teachers set up outside of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s home in Logan Square. On Friday, the teachers added a saxophone to the line, playing songs like “Careless Whisper” to entertain commuters walking by on their way to the Blue Line.

7:55 a.m. Extended negotiations?

City Hall is asking top teachers union officials to commit to at least 10 hours of talks each day until an agreement is reached and the strike ends. The union posted a note on Twitter that it said came from Jim Franczek, the city’s top negotiator, which also asked union chief Jesse Sharkey and vice president Stacy Davis Gates not to pause talks during this afternoon’s union rally.

“We cannot afford to have another three to four hour recess in negotiations while both of you are gone,” says the note, in which Davis Gates’s first name is misspelled. “It is vital to the success of these negotiations that one of you be present at all times.”

“C’mon son,” the union responded in a thread making the case that it has been working toward a new contract more assiduously than the city — including by delivering its first proposal months before Mayor Lori Lightfoot was even elected.

6:50 a.m. Benefits for striking teachers

It’s no regular paycheck, but striking teachers can take home a free popsicle from one of the city’s hippest ice cream shops. That’s one restaurant offering discounts and giveaways in solidarity with the strike. Eater has a roundup.