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Chicago Teachers Union printing strike signs — just in case

Oscar Moy49 Pressman Progress Printing Company Chicago prints off Chicago Teachers UniStrike signs Friday afternoon. August 17 2012. | Scott

Oscar Moya, 49, Pressman at Progress Printing Company, Chicago, prints off Chicago Teachers Union Strike signs Friday afternoon. August 17, 2012. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 19, 2012 6:07AM

Some 20,000 to 30,000 Chicago Teachers Union strike signs were rolling off the presses at a Bridgeport printer Friday, as CTU officials continued to prepare for a strike before classes start for most kids Sept. 4.

A news release from the union cautioned that no decision has been made on whether the CTU will wage its first strike since 1987. The union must give Chicago Public School officials a 10-day heads-up before any strike, and the union’s House of Delegates would have to set any strike date.

More than 90 percent of all members — an all-time record — have already handed CTU officials the power to call a strike if contract talks that have languished since November are not resolved. Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard on Monday said he was “optimistic” about the state of contract talks and was hoping for a resolution before classes start for most of the system on Sept. 4.

However, Nina Gapshis of Progress Printing said Friday the Bridgeport printer was busy doing a run of 20,000 to 30,000 strike signs for the CTU.

The last time Progress Printing had such an order from the CTU, a long-time client, was in 1987, when teachers waged a 19-day strike, Gapshis said.

According to the CTU news release, the union must “prepare its members for the worst” so it ordered the printing of “on strike’’ signs.

“We do not want a strike,’’ CTU President Karen Lewis said in a news release. “But if we cannot reach an agreement we might. We cannot wait until the day of a strike to print signs and prepare over 25,000 members for a work stoppage. We have to be ready one way or another. We will do what we ... must to ensure our rights are respected and our students get what they deserve.’’

CTU and CPS officials recently reached an interim deal that allowed year-round schools to open Monday with a longer day for kids, but not for teachers. However, Lewis has said many major issues have yet to be resolved, and the two sides have not even started talking about compensation.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Friday that the district continues to “hold discussions in good faith” and is “optimistic that we will come to a resolution that keeps the focus on our children and is fair to our teachers.’’

Added Carroll: “The only signs we’re interested in are the ones kids are making in art class.”

Meanwhile, Lewis this week predicted contract talks would not be resolved before next Wednesday, when School Board members were due to vote on the system’s budget at their monthly meeting.

Amid that uncertainty, Carroll said Friday that the board agenda for next week’s meeting was not yet final, and “until it is, we can’t comment on it’’ and whether the budget would be up for a vote Wednesday.

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