With new video and deadline, the Chicago Teachers Union expresses urgency for a deal

Chicago’s teachers union is upping the pressure on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, issuing a new deal-making deadline and a minute-long video of several educators explaining why they’re pushing so hard on contract negotiations. 

In a statement accompanying the video, union President Jesse Sharkey said the mayor has a month to make a deal. 

“Candidate Lightfoot vowed there will be no teacher strike on her watch,” Sharkey wrote. “Mayor Lightfoot has a month to make good on that and her campaign promises.”

In the second week since the contract between the union and the district expired, the union has increased the urgency of its demands to the new mayor. Last week, Lightfoot’s team made its offer on pay public and offered its first round of detailed proposals on topics such as grievances and prep time. 

The deal includes a 14% raise over five years, but the union balked at the pay increase, saying it was closer to 11% once employee health insurance costs were factored in.  

The union warned of a strike when school begins this fall if the city does not meet its demands. In 2012, when the last contract was negotiated, members had authorized a start-of-school strike by July. 

Lightfoot, who took office in May and inherited more dire budget problems than anticipated, has described her team’s first offer as “robust” and “fair.” She has warned about potential budget shortfalls due to mounting tabs on pensions, labor contracts, and debt payments coming due. 

“Since day one of this administration, we have been diligently working for a deal that further supports educators, with our primary focus on enhancing the educational experience of students across the city,” the mayor’s office said in a statement on Friday morning. “As mandated by statute, both parties have agreed to a set timeline for those negotiations, and CPS has continued to adhere to this prescribed process throughout negotiations and throughout two dozen meetings.”

The statement said Lightfoot plans to resolve all issues before the start of the new school year.

In the video, featured educators argue for more social workers and smaller class sizes.  

“As a history teacher, there’s a long history of systemic issues in Chicago Public Schools,” said Alison Eichhorn, a teacher at Lindblom Math and Science Academy. The district needs to fix its mistakes, she said.

“And the only way you do that is if you fund public education,” added Leslie Plewa, a teacher at Taft High School. 

Watch the video below.


Updated: This story was updated to reflect a statement from the mayor’s office on Friday.