CTU strikers: ‘Mayor Lightfoot, get on the right foot’

Summerlee Schmitt

By Ignacio Calderon and Camilla Forte

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and their supporters walked picket lines Thursday, striking for the first time since 2012. The union estimated that more than 30,000 strikers were prepared to be on the streets and a rally began just after 2:30 p.m. around the corner from the Chicago Board of Education building, 1 N. Dearborn St.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union and their supporters walked picket lines Thursday, striking for the first time since 2012. The union estimated that more than 30,000 teachers and support staff were prepared to be on the streets, and a rally began just after 2:30 p.m. around the corner from the Chicago Board of Education headquarters, 1 N. Dearborn St.

After rejecting Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s offer that included a 16% raise over five years, teachers said the problem is not with inadequate wages but with a disparity in the number of resources available for schools.

City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin said at an Oct. 14 CTU rally that teachers and other unions supporting them are sacrificing themselves “to fight for the basic rights of our children. … [They are] fighting for class size, a nurse, a social worker, a librarian—for an environment conducive to learning.”

In contract negotiations, Lightfoot dismissed some of the union’s requests by saying “the collective bargaining agreement is not the appropriate place” to address social issues such as affordable housing needs of students and teachers, according to an Oct. 9 WTTW article.

Ignacio Calderon
On Oct. 14, Chicago Teachers Union was joined by Service Employees International Union, on an rally that started at Chicago Temple Building at 77 W. Washington St.

“[All they] have been saying is, ‘Take the money,’” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey during the Monday rally. “‘We’ve offered you 16%; you teachers are highly paid. You are the highest paid in the country,’ they said.” Still, he said the union will push for better conditions for their students.

As of press time, the city has not reached an agreement with teachers, meaning CTU members were working under an expired contract since June 30.

“We know what works, we know what students need to be successful. It is not rocket science,” said Ald. Rossana Rodríguez Sánchez (33rd Ward) during the Monday rally.

CPS canceled classes Thursday and Friday, affecting more than 300,000 students and their families, including some people at Columbia.

However, school facilities remained open to offer meals and a place for students to stay during the day.

Jackie Spinner, associate professor in the Communication Department, said in an Oct. 16 email to the Chronicle she was disappointed she has not “seen any guidance from Columbia College for our students who may be parents or faculty and staff.”

Spinner welcomed any of her students who are CPS parents to bring their children to classes, if necessary.

“My department chair reached out to see how she could help, which was great for me,” Spinner said. “But I don’t know how many of my colleagues … can count on this kind of support.”

Those on the picket lines have said they will continue to strike until contracts with the city are finalized.

“I hope this ends quickly,” said Gina Cipriani, a 25-year veteran first grade teacher at Smith Elementary School on the Far South Side. “We’d like to get back into the classroom and do what we do best—teach.”

This video was done in collaboration with FrequencyTV, a Media Hub partner at Columbia College Chicago.