Politics

Chicago Teachers Lobby State Legislature To Eliminate Strike Restrictions

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The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is lobbying the Illinois state legislature to eliminate a law that limits the reasons teachers can go on strike.

The legislation, sponsored by Democratic Illinois State Representative Silvana Tabares, would eliminate a provision limiting the ability for teachers to strike in cities with a population of more than 500,000 people. The bill would give Chicago teachers the right to strike over more issues, including class size, length of the school day, layoffs and outsourcing, according to WBEZ News.

“Currently, Chicago teachers are being legally barred from negotiating for a fair and quality workplace in their classrooms,” Tabares said in a video prepared by the House Democratic Caucus.

In 1995, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley took over the Chicago Public Schools from the state of Illinois and instituted restrictions on the CTU’s ability to strike. The 1995 Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act limited teachers in Chicago to striking only over economic issues. 2011 legislation placed decisions such as the length of the school day squarely in the hands of the the mayor.

“Students in Chicago deserve better, and that is why I’m fighting in Springfield on legislation that give Chicago teachers the same bargaining rights that every other Illinois teacher has,” Tabares said in the video.

CTU leaders testified in Springfield this week, where they argued that the restrictive laws have contributed to the school district’s current financial woes.

“What was sold as a way to avoid labor strife, to help schools balance their budget and to improve education in Chicago has produced in fact the opposite effect,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said in reference to the 1995 and 2011 legislation, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A Chicago Public Schools (CPS) labor negotiator countered the CTU argument, asserting that the restrictive laws were meant to allow CPS to respond quickly to students needs, while maintaining flexibility for the unions. “It’s [the law] not broken, please don’t fix it,” Joe Moriarty, CPS chief labor relations officer, testified Wednesday.

Even if the bill is passed successfully through the legislature, it would have to be signed by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, an opponent of the CTU.

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