Charter school teachers, City Colleges staff threaten to strike

Alex White

By Knox Keranen, Staff Reporter

Charter school educators and City College staff are bargaining to attain more student benefits and higher wages for staff.

The two groups rallied outside of the Arturo Velazquez Westside Technical Institute, 2800 S. Western Ave., April 25 in solidarity for higher wages and increased resources. 

Both the Chicago Teachers Union and the Federation of College Clerical & Technical Personnel (Local 1708), who represent the groups, plan to strike May 1 if their demands are not met.  May 1 also marks a national holiday for  labor workers, May Day.  

President of the CTU Jesse Sharkey said the chances that sides will reach an agreement are slim. “They are sick of working for substandard wages.” Sharkey said. “They are sick of making due without enough staff for their students, and they are going to try to force the issue in their contract negotiations.” 

Orlando Pinder
Jesse Sharkey, President of the Chicago’s teachers union rallies with City College Chicago workers for a contract to, “demand fairness, a livable wage, and the respect they deserve from the CCC administration.” April 25.

The planned strike by the charter school teachers would be the first multi-employer charter strike in U.S. history.  The potential strike would follow on the heels of another historical strike when 530 teachers at Acero Charter Schools, backed by the CTU, negotiated a contract after carrying out a four-day strike in December 2018, becoming the country’s first charter school to organize a work stoppage. 

The charter schools in joint bargaining are the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy, the Chicago High School for the Arts, Latino Youth High School and Youth Connection Leadership Academy. The five schools serve more than 1,800 students combined. Latinx and black students make up the majority of the student bodies at the schools, excluding the Chicago High School for the Arts.

Meanwhile, more than 400 staff members at City Colleges Chicago, represented by the Federation of College Clerical Technical Personnel—which is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers—have also announced a strike planned for May 1 if negotiations are not successful. 

Administrative Assistant at Olive-Harvey City College,  Sherina Collins said paraprofessionals are bearing increased workloads while some are not making living wage.

“We are fighting for more than just salaries; it’s about respect,” Collins said. “We haven’t had a raise in almost three years, [but] our administrators are getting raises.”

Laboratories coordinator at Malcolm X City College, Roberto Guzman, said when his faculty union was negotiating for a new contract Chancellor of City Colleges Juan Salgado eased negotiation tensions with food.

“[He] gave tamales to the faculty and professionals. Why won’t [he] give tamales to the [paraprofessionals]?” Guzman asked. 

CTU Director, Chris Geovanis said Salgado, former CEO of Instituto del Progreso, has brought the practice of low balling student resources to the City Colleges.

“That’s a symptom of the distorted priorities that have historically plagued management in these institutions,” Geovanis said. “It’s time for it to change.” 

Chancellor Salgado was not immediately available for comment.