Chicago Teachers Union Still Stuck On A Contract

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The Chicago teachers strike entered its second week on Monday. The union says it's looking over a proposed deal. City officials also tried to get a court order to stop the strike.


The teachers' strike in Chicago has entered its second week. Today, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel sent city attorneys to court to try and end the strike and send students back to class. In the meantime, parents are looking for new ways to keep their kids occupied. And as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Chicago, union delegates say they are still assessing a tentative contract.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?


CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Chanting for a fair contract, a crowd of Chicago teachers in red...

CORNISH: to keep their kids occupied.

And as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Chicago, union delegates say they are still assessing a tentative contract.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?

PROTESTERS: Fair contracts.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What do we want?

PROTESTERS: Fair contracts.

CORLEY: Chanting for a fair contract, a crowd of Chicago teachers and in red union shirts jointed supporters and filled the lobby in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office. Their goal? Letting city leaders know they oppose the mayor seeking an injunction to end the school strike.

Steven Ashby, a University of Illinois labor professor, is with the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign.

STEVEN ASHBY: I can tell you that injunctions have been used over the past century only as a union-busting tool to suppress the democratic right to strike. They do not belong in American democracy.


CORLEY: At the end of last week, union and school leaders seemed optimistic that they would reach a resolution by today. Emanuel had also warned he'd turn to the court if there is no end to the strike by week's end. So, in its filing, the city contends the strike is illegal, that it endangers the health and safety of the school district's students. And that under state law, issue still of concern - evaluations, layoffs, and recall rights - are not grounds for a strike.

No word from the mayor's office or school board today. But last night, school board President David Vitale said he and the mayor were extremely disappointed with the union's decision.

DAVID VITALE: There is no reason why our kids cannot be in school while the union reviews the agreement. Just as we have said that this is a strike of choice, it has now become a delay of choice.


CORLEY: This morning, there were still signs of support for teachers. Motorists honked their horns and waved at teachers protesting in front of neighborhood schools. David Bobby(ph), a union delegate and a teacher at Sullivan High School, says he knows it's a frustrating situation. But...

DAVID BOBBY: This is a bottom-up organization. Teachers, clinicians, clerks, all of us have a right and a vote in this process. And, frankly, to vote on this takes time. We also have the Jewish holiday, which inadvertently pushes us back a little bit so that we can be sure that all members have a chance to weigh in.

CORLEY: About 350,000 Chicago students are affected by the school strike. And parents are counting on places like this North Side Chicago Park District, where today children played basketball, twirled hula-hoops and took part in camp activities. Outside the filled house, the reaction from parents bringing their children here was mixed.

Yuwalla Edi Abonya(ph) was dropping off her six-year-old first grader.

YUWALLA EDI ABONYA: I do support the teachers for what they're doing as far as the things that they want for the classroom. But, at the same time, I just wish that there could be a compromise; everybody could just come together just for the sake of the kids.

CORLEY: Edi Abonya said she had been really hopeful that school would resume today. Robin Henra(ph), the father of another first grade student, said he had been to and doesn't think the continued strike is justified.

ROBIN HENRA: I think the union took this one step too far. And I'm afraid there's going to be consequence in losing some of their parent support that they had last week and prior. You know, everybody should be looking for the children first. And at this point, feel like they're kind of being used as a bargaining chip.

CORLEY: Union leaders plan to meet tomorrow to decide whether to call off the strike, the first for the city in 25 years. City officials, meantime, say Wednesday morning a judge will hold a hearing on Mayor Emanuel's request for an order that will send striking teachers back to work.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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