Chicago teachers to strike after rejecting contract offer

The Chicago Teacher’s Union rejected a final contract offer from Chicago Public Schools on Wednesday, indicating that the more than 25,000 teachers and support personnel it represents will strike on Thursday.

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Nearly 400,000 students and families stand to be affected. Classes were preemptively canceled on Thursday due to the likelihood of a strike, though school buildings are scheduled to remain open and meals will be served.

In a press conference, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the deal the union rejected was the best in the Chicago Teacher’s Union history, adding that it called for a 16 percent pay raise for all employees.

It is the union’s second strike in seven years – the last major strike occurred in 2012.

Sticking points in the negotiations included the union’s desire for a cap on class sizes, as well as more staff. It had also fought for higher wages and more resources, overall.

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According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for secondary school teachers in Illinois as of 2017 was $68,380 – among the highest in the country.

The starting salary for a Chicago Public School teacher is $52,958 – the highest for unit school districts in the state, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Teacher’s Union may have been emboldened by the success of similar movements in other states last year, including West Virginia, where schools closed for nine days as teachers fought for higher wages and better benefits – they ultimately scored a 5 percent pay raise.

Educators held more strikes in 2018 than at any other time in the past 25 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Teachers in Arizona won a nearly 20 percent raise.

Strikes also occurred in Oklahoma, North Carolina, Colorado and Kentucky last year – and in Los Angeles earlier this year.

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The strikes come after a Supreme Court ruling seemingly dealt a blow to labor unions last year, determining that it is unconstitutional to require government workers to pay a “fair share” fee to unions for the coverage and protection afforded to them under collective bargaining if they choose not to be members.