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Chicago Teachers Could Strike On April 1st If Chicago Public Schools Follows Through On Threat To Unilaterally Cancel Pension Pickup

Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016
by Lauren FitzPatrick/Chicago Sun-Times

(CHICAGO) - The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will gear up to Strike as soon as April 1st, if Chicago Public Schools follows through on its threat to unilaterally cancel the 7% Pension pickup it has made for decades, a top Union Official said Monday (March 7th).

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey made the comment just hours after 62 Members of his Union were laid off, a fraction of the number the CTU had feared.

As the school district has ramped up pressure on the Union - via layoffs - to sign off on a contract proposal to replace the one that expired last June, the CTU countered with its own threat of withholding labor in the middle of the second semester, earlier than previous predictions when parents might still support a Teacher Walkout.

Sharkey said CPS gave 30-day notice of potential plans to stop making a 7% Pension Contribution for Union Members - in effect, a 7% pay cut - about 28 days ago.

“The board ‘claims they’ve got a right to do that.’ We’re ‘sure they’re wrong,’” Sharkey said.  “For them to say, ‘OK, you can’t go on Strike, but ‘we can make a unilateral term change in employment’ by way of a seven-percent pay cut,’ we think that’s an ‘outrageous violation’ of the way Labor Law works, and ‘if they actually go through with it,’ you can expect ‘our labor’ to prepare for an Unfair Labor Practice Strike on April First.”

Addressing reporters outside Skinner North Elementary School earlier Monday, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said CPS hadn’t yet canceled the Pension Payment: “We gave our thirty days notice to the Union, as is required in the contact in early February, and once that period is up we will work with our administrative team and notify the Union of when that will take effect.”

Claypool made the comments while fielding questions about the 62 CTU Members who were laid off Monday morning as part of budget cuts, 17 of them Teachers.

The city’s chief labor lawyer, James Franczek, who has been negotiating the contract with the CTU, said state law is very clear about how teachers may legally strike - and that the process wouldn’t conclude until mid-May.  “There is no exception to the no-strike prohibition for Unfair Labor Practices,” he told The Chicago Sun-Times.

But CTU lawyer Robert Bloch said Franczek was referring to the law governing how to negotiate a contract, rather than one ruling Unfair Labor Practices: “Under the National Labor Relations Act, Employees may lawfully strike over Unfair Labor Practices as a way to induce the employer to ‘stop’ committing them.  This would be over ‘unfairly’ cutting Teachers’ pay in the middle of negotiations.”

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