Union: 80 percent of teachers reject latest contract offer
By ROSALIND ROSSI Education Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2012 2:14PM
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey 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
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:35AM
Nearly 80 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members voted to reject the latest teacher contract proposal in recent straw polls — more than what would be needed to authorize a real strike under a new law, CTU leaders said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chicago Public School officials called on union leaders to commit to not calling for a strike authorization vote until CTU members can see a fact-finder’s recommendation on how to resolve talks over a contract that expires June 30. CTU officials refused to do so.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey noted that the recommendation is not due until July 15, so “really, what the board is saying is to commit to taking a vote in the summer, when our members are on vacation, which would be stupid.’’
CTU leaders will call for a vote when the time is most appropriate and, by law, that could be before school ends and before the fact-finder even issues his report, Sharkey told the Sun-Times Tuesday.
If union members authorize a strike by a new, higher threshold of 75 percent of all members, the union’s House of Delegates would have to follow up by setting a date for the strike, Sharkey said.
At a news conference Tuesday with Sharkey, Whitney Young teacher Jay Rehak called the board’s offer of a 2 percent raise in the first year of the contract for a 15 to 20 percent longer work day “an insult.’’ Whether every teacher would get a raise in years two through five of the board’s offer is uncertain, CTU officials contend.
“Teachers deserve a raise and our children don’t deserve a strike, which is why we are engaged in a fact-finding process with an independent arbiter,’’ Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said by email. “I hope we can finish out a strong school year and let the independent process help us come to a resolution before considering the threat of a strike.’’
Also Tuesday, Sharkey revealed that the union’s recent attempt to poll all of its members — something logistically needed if it is to meet the new strike threshold — indicated 95 percent of 21,000 CTU voters favored rejecting the current contract during recent straw polls of schools.
Across what Sharkey identified as a total membership of 25,000, that means nearly 80 percent of all members favored rejection of the latest proposal. That result is more than the minimum 75 percent of all CTU members required by a new state law to authorize a teachers strike in Chicago.
However, Chicago Public School officials contend the version of the contract proposal CTU members were given during the straw poll was slanted and filled with inaccuracies, so the result is slanted and inaccurate, too.
The CTU press conference preceded by one day a rally the union is planning at the Auditorium Theater, followed by a march to Board of Education headquarters. The Wednesday rally and march are intended to give Emanuel and his school team the “loud and clear” message that the CTU wants a contract that “respects teachers,” Sharkey said.