Chicago teachers strike marks one week by descending on mayor's budget address

The Chicago Teachers Union marked week one of its strike by swarming Mayor Lori Lightfoot's budget address at City Hall on Wednesday, even as one teacher chooses to cross picket lines to remain in the classroom.

Organizers called on protesters to wear red, purple and black: "red for the CTU, purple for the [Service Employees International Union], and black to highlight 1) the loss of hope that the Lightfoot administration will champion the working class and our students and 2) the joint effort with SEIU and our allies who have supported, strengthened and amplified our picket lines and our movement."

The strike affects more than 300,000 students in the city and involves more than 26,000 teachers. One teacher, Joseph Ocol, refused to participate in a 2012 Chicago Teacher Union strike because he said he'd made a promise not to leave his students.

"I am a teacher, and as a teacher, I should be with my students, inside my classroom, inside the school building," Ocol, who teaches at the Charles E. Earle STEM Academy, told ABC 7 Chicago.

He teaches math and coaches the chess team -- unfortunately, Ocol's team wasn't able to compete at a Chicago Public Schools chess match on Saturday because it got canceled.

"I think Mr. Ocol is good, and he's a good teacher," first grader London Coleman told ABC 7 Chicago.

A woman holds a sign as striking teachers and school staff picket Thursday, Oct., 17, 2019 outside George Leland Elementary School on Chicago's West Side. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

The union said it will strike as long as needed to get guarantees on the changes it wants, like smaller class sizes and more social workers, case managers and school nurses.

Lightfoot said last week that the strike should not be taking place because she has already given in to many of the union's concessions, including the offer of a 16 percent pay raise, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

"We value the workers ... Honoring that value is who I am and what I stand for," Lightfoot said according to The Sun-Times. "But I also must be responsible for the taxpayers who pay for everything that goes on."

Chicago Teachers Union president Jesse Sharkey speaks at a rally outside of an elementary school where striking teachers picketed on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Lightfoot has tried to meet the union in the middle, union president Jesse Sharkey admitted earlier this week.

"We got meaningful written offers about class size, and we got meaningful written offers about staffing. That's incredibly important. The mayor gave us an offer that we believe could help us get a nurse at every school every day. The mayor gave us an offer which we believe would limit the size of our classes and let students get individual attention," Sharkey said according to USA Today.

Chicago teachers last major strike was in 2012, and the district kept some schools open for half days during that seven-day walkout. District officials said this time they will keep all buildings open during school hours, staffed by principals and employees who usually work in administrative roles.

Breakfast and lunch will be served, but all after-school activities and school buses are suspended in the district.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.