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Chicago’s Public Schools ‘Lock Out’ Their Teachers After Union Members Voted For Distance Learning In The Latest Effort To Deal With The Coronavirus Pandemic

Published Friday, January 7, 2022
by Mark Gruenberg/People’s World
Chicago’s Public Schools ‘Lock Out’ Their Teachers After Union Members Voted For Distance Learning In The Latest Effort To Deal With The Coronavirus Pandemic

(CHICAGO, ILLINOIS) - The Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third-largest system in the Continental U.S., canceled classes earlier this week after an overwhelming majority of its 28,000 Teachers and Staff voted for distance learning, not in-person classes, in the latest effort to beat the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Members of Chicago Teachers Union/American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1 voted 73%-to-27% in a four-hour electronic vote Tuesday evening (January 4th) for distance learning.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez then carried out his threat to close the schools, virtually locking the Workers out, even barring teaching by Zoom.

Before the Members’ vote, the Union’s House of Delegates voted 88%-to-12% “to support a resolution to return to remote education during this deadly surge in the absence of safety guarantees from the Mayor’s CPS team,” Local 1 said.

The confrontation could run through January 18th, the Union previously said.

The Union said it was “a rapidly convened vote to address a groundswell of safety concerns raised by Members in recent weeks.”

Union Delegates had set a threshold of two-thirds for the resolution to be considered approved, unlike a Strike vote, which requires 75%.

“Let us be clear - the educators of this city want to be in their classrooms with their students.  We believe that our city’s classrooms are where our students should be.  Regrettably, the Mayor and her CPS leadership have put the safety and vibrancy of our students and their Educators in jeopardy,” the Union said. “We want you to know that when you put your children in our care we put their well-being and safety first.  We fight for your children like they are our own because they are.  As this pandemic continues, we will do everything in our power to ensure our classrooms are the safest and healthiest places for your children to learn, thrive and grow.”

Like parents in the Windy City, CTU described itself as frustrated by Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Democrat), who controls the School Board and the CEO, to refuse “to at last commit to enforceable safety protections centered on the well-being of our students, their families, and our school communities.”

“We want to be in our buildings educating our students, but we have a right to rigorous layered mitigation that ensures that we’re also not sacrificing our lives for our livelihoods,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said just days before the deadline.

The Union wants all students and Staff to present proof of negative Coronavirus test results before in-person learning resumes.

The Union also seeks high-quality masks for all students and Staff to reinstate the standards the two sides agreed upon to reopen the schools for the last section of the 2020-21 school year.

“If mitigations are not in place, the CTU’s proposal would pause in-person learning to give the district time to ensure that all mitigations are in place,” the Union said in a prior statement.

Besides negative test results, other measures included better masking and ventilation repairs to ensure fresh air circulates in all city schools.

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