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Teachers union chief: Emanuel declared war over longer school day

Updated: November 9, 2011 2:03PM

The Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday filed its first major legal salvo in the battle over a longer school day, charging that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team are waging an illegal campaign to circumvent the union.

CTU President Karen Lewis said Emanuel’s actions amount to a declaration of war.

The union’s complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board came as teachers at a fourth school — Benjamin Mays Elementary in Englewood — voted to waive the existing CTU contract and add 90 more minutes to the school day in exchange for 2 percent raises and other perks.

At other schools, the CTU complaint alleged Tuesday, the district conducted “sham elections’’ with non-union members, “intimidated” some teachers with the threat of layoffs and offered “inducements’’ to others “in an attempt to bypass the CTU’’ and the wages it already negotiated.

“They are going around us to negate the contract with our members, and that is unlawful,’’ Lewis said.

“This is just out-and-out disrespect and war. That’s what this is. This is an attempt to take down and make irrelevant the Chicago Teachers Union because if the CTU goes, they can roll over every union in the city.’’

Thursday’s CTU complaint contends waivers should be canceled at two schools — STEM Magnet and Skinner North — that allegedly conducted “sham elections’’ by allowing non-CTU members to vote. Systemwide, it asks that CPS be barred from “dealing directly’’ with employees about the length of the school day and extra compensation for it.

At STEM Magnet, the complaint charged, teachers were told the school would be “the mayor’s new pet’’ if they approved a longer-day waiver. Emanuel later made his first school appearance of the new school year at STEM. At Skinner, according to the complaint, the principal directed three non-CTU members who initially declined to vote to do so after the first ballot on the issue came back tied, 6-6.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the CTU contract gives individual schools the right to waive any part of the contract they want. She said the CTU complaint was “ill-advised” and “lacks merit.”

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