The Battle Between CPS and CTU is about much more than Pay

If you follow the mainstream press you probably think that CPS and the CTU are battling mainly over what teachers should be paid. This is not accurate. A raise may be one issue at stake, but the bigger issue behind the scenes, as we understand, is that the state law that passed last year, SB7, changes the process of bargaining and essentially is forcing a stalemate between the two parties. What does this mean?

This law strengthens the language to allow CPS to eliminate any bargaining over “work-rules” for teachers (at the Board's determination). (Section 4.5 of SB7) In other words, CPS can eliminate all issues beyond pay and benefits from the contract. There are many other items in the current contract, such as reference to class size, schedules, allowing for prep time for teachers and much more. While under past law, CPS did not have to allow bargaining over many of these issues, they did under Mayor Daley, and many of these items are in the current contract. SB7 also added the length of the school day and school year as items that the CTU can’t bargain over.

CPS and CTU are in “fact-finding” but SB7 says the fact-finding panel can only address the issues that CPS opens up in the negotiations. From SB7 “A dispute or impasse over any Section 4.5 subject shall not be resolved through the procedures set forth in this Act, and the Board, mediator, or fact-finder has no jurisdiction over any Section 4.5 subject. The changes made to this subsection (b) by this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly are declarative of existing law."

In our opinion, this is what is creating the mess we are in and should be amended in SB7. We have mediators and fact-finders who are limited to discussing what the CPS/mayor determine eligible for discussion. These mediators can’t even make recommendations to improve the talks. CPS/CTU are at a peace table with so called “mediators” who can’t even recommend that they make peace.

As Rod Estvan, disability rights advocate for Access Living pointed out in the Tribunethis week about SB7, "It causes the board to say we don't have to negotiate over these things because the law says we don't have to so we won't," Estvan said. "It tells the union the only way to open nonsalary issues for discussion is by making a salary demand that's so significant that the board says, 'OK, we'll open it up if you lower your demand.'"

Raise Your Hand recommends that the mayor and CPS open up the negotiations beyond pay and benefits. We believe that the only way to come to a decent contract and avoid a strike is to give the teachers a contractual voice in some of the work-rules that impact their day and profession. We are not at the table and do not know what is being discussed but we do know that this bill does not help the process and that we could face a strike this fall. Parents want our kids in school this fall and we think the Mayor's office needs to open up these talks to help make that happen. Once done, we believe both sides need to compromise to come to a fair contract. It’s going to take hard work, but we are enthusiastic that both sides can make this happen.