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Group airs radio ads against teachers union strike authorization vote

Chicago Teachers UniVice President Jesse Sharkey (behind podium) addresses reporters during press conference Chicago Teachers Uni222 Merchandise Mart 4th floor

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey (behind podium) addresses reporters during a press conference at the Chicago Teachers Union, 222 Merchandise Mart, 4th floor, Tuesday, May 22, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:36AM

A major advertising campaign hit Chicago rush-hour radio Monday, urging parents to “text’’ in their opposition to the timing of a Chicago Teachers Union strike authorization vote that begins Wednesday.

The “significant buy’’ of radio advertising may well be the first time in 25 years that radio ads have been used during Chicago teacher contract talks, said John Kupper of AKPD, which placed the ads for an affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform.

The aim of the ad is to educate the public about the Chicago Teacher Union’s decision to “jump the gun’’ and call for a strike authorization vote this week under a new law before a fact-finder renders his recommendation on July 16, Kupper said.

The ad also gives residents an outlet to “voice their concern,’’ Kupper said, by urging them to text a certain number to sign a “petition against an early strike vote.”

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the union is acting within the law and that no strike can actually occur until the union’s House of Delegates sets the strike date. CTU leaders view the authorization vote as a “bargaining tool’’ to push CPS officials to resolve the contract before classes begin in September, he said.

Sharkey called the new radio ad an attempt to “whip up parents to try to use them as a battering ram against what the union is doing.’’ Said Sharkey: “That’s odious.’’

Noting that the board of directors of Democrats for Education Reform is packed with private equity and investment firm managers, Sharkey said, “I guess their hobby is to try to tell public educators what to do and to spend their extra millions on radio ads.’’

Because the new law requires at least 75 percent of all union members to authorize a strike, CTU leaders have insisted they cannot hold the strike authorization vote during the summer, when teachers are on vacation and may be out of town. Plus, any serious final offer from CPS will be presented to full membership for approval, Sharkey said.

However, Rebeca Nieves Huffman, Illinois state director of Democrats for Education Reform, said a strike authorization vote now is “not in the spirit’’ of the timeline that was negotiated with the union during the law’s development.

Huffman and Kupper said the ad will be running on various stations, including WLS, WBBM, WGCI, WVON and a Spanish-language station, during the rush-hour and other times.

In it, one woman exclaims that it “makes no sense’’ that teachers are being asked to authorize a strike before the fact-finder’s July 16 recommendation and “before they even see the deal.”

Says a second woman, “Maybe if they hear from enough parents, they’ll do right by kids.’’

Listeners are then asked to text the words “compromise’’ to a certain number to “sign a petition against an early strike vote.’’

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