Today’s issue of the Red Star Strike Update will provide context on the Tentative Agreement regarding a return to in-person learning between Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
The aim of the Red Star Bulletin is to bring Chicago Democratic Socialists of America members a regular round-up of important legislation, committee meetings, and other updates from City Hall and beyond, as well as analysis of what this means for our organizing as socialists. (You can opt-out below or manage your subscription preferences here.)
CTU’s principled bargaining tactics won solidarity locally and nationally as well as impressive movement around their demands. Potentially wrapping up tomorrow night, the union’s democratic ratification process is the backbone of its bargaining power. This installment aims to underscore that strength for the benefit of all labor-related struggles.
This struggle has seen months of intimidation and systematic lying to the public from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Over the past few weeks as tensions escalated, the Mayor took on the role of bully, attempting to force teachers back to school and away from the bargaining table. More than once Lightfoot made late night ultimatums to the union, threatening retribution against teachers and staff who refused to return to in person learning. And, more than once, she was made to look like a fool, backtracking on her threats as the union stood strong and united in their demands for a safe return.
The past weeks have been filled with city-wide car caravans, moving rallies over Zoom, teach-outs in freezing cold weather, and a willingness of CTU members to risk their own paychecks in order to protect their fellow educators. Through this coordinated series of direct actions and principled solidarity, CTU was able to force their bosses to the bargaining table—no small feat in itself—and go on to win considerable concessions in the current agreement. Without a doubt these victories have already saved the lives of teachers, staff, students, and the larger school community.
Over the past few weeks the rank-and-file of the CTU have taught us an important lesson in solidarity, as they enter the next phase of bargaining, they’ll be teaching us an important lesson in democracy. For the past few days teachers and staff have been discussing and debating the current proposal, deciding collectively, what course of action is best for their membership. While there may be disagreement, the process that is unfolding represents a deep well of workplace democracy we rarely see in capitalist society.
Ways CDSA Members Can Support the Effort
An agreement is one thing, and implementation is another. No matter how the vote turns out, this fight won’t be settled immediately and we should all be ready to show our solidarity in the work ahead.
This conflict is not yet over, and there are many ways to help.
- Support the solidarity fund. CTU has raised over $84,000 of their $300,000 goal to assist those workers affected by CPS’ retaliation. Contributions are essential and encouraged.
- Tonight, at 7 pm, the CDSA Labor Branch will be meeting. We’ll get updates from CTU members on the agreement, hear lessons from their fight, and discuss the path ahead. Lend your power and perspective in the meeting. Register for the Zoom link here.
Listed here are the terms of the Tentative Agreement between CTU and CPS. The terms are listed in bold face. Points of contention unaddressed by these terms are italicized.
- Pre-K and Special Education Cluster Programs resume February 11, 2021 for both students and staff.
- Teachers and staff for Kindergarten through 5th grade report on February 22, 2021. Students in those grades report on March 1.
- Teachers and staff for 6th through 8th grade report on March 1. Students in those grades report on March 8, 2021.
[HEALTH METRICS] — District Operational Pause — Following the resumption of in-person learning under this agreement, CPS shall pause in-person learning for 14 days and transition fully to remote instruction citywide if the COVID-19 test positivity rate (7 day rolling average) in the City of Chicago meets the following criteria:
- Rate increases for 7 consecutive days:
- Rate for each of the 7 consecutive days is at least 15% higher (i.e. one-fifth higher) than the rate one week prior; and
- Rate on the 7th day is 10% or greater. CPS shall resume in-person learning when the 14-day pause expires, or when the criteria for pausing in-person learning are no longer met, whichever is later.
- Classroom Operational Pause – Triggered by 1 or more positive cases present during contagious period.
- School Operational Pause – Triggered by 3 or more confirmed cases at a school within a 14-day period.
- CPS Employer Vaccination Program – CPS shall provide at least 1,500 first vaccine doses per week to CPS employees. Second doses are guaranteed and do not count against weekly allotment. Number of doses provided by CPS per week will increase as the overall Chicago supply of vaccines increases.
- Protect Chicago Plus and CPS Vaccine Partner Program – CPS must make all concerted efforts to acquire a total of at least 1,500 vaccine doses per week.
- Vaccine Priority List. CPS shall prioritize within the CTU bargaining unit vaccination of employees based upon phase-in group, risk factors like age and demographics, zip code positivity, and educators with accommodations seeking to resume in-person work.
- At least 2,000 doses per week must be offered to Pre-K and Cluster staff, and staff who have requested household accommodations during the week of February 8. Half will be offered to each group.
- Employees will be permitted paid time to get vaccinated
- Employees with Medical Risks or Primary Caregivers for Relatives with Medical Risks. CPS will grant approval for telework accommodations for all. These employees are eligible to receive vaccinations as part of the district vaccination plan, and may opt to return to in-person work once vaccinated.
- Employees with Household Members with Medical Risks. CPS will grant telework accommodations to the extent operationally feasible. Principals will reasonably utilize multiple strategies to maximize accommodations granted, including reassignments, teacher pairings, class combinations, vaccine prioritization, and remote work for any teachers with no in-person students.
- Employees with Childcare Challenges. CPS will be granted telework accommodations as operationally feasible. Employees will have family leave rights as provided by law. Employees not granted a telework accommodation related to childcare will continue to be offered an alternate accommodation whereby their children may attend their regular school on all days when students are in attendance or a CPS Learning Hub.
- Employees not Granted Accommodations. Employees without an accommodation and who are not fully vaccinated may, upon request, take a job-protected unpaid leave of absence, with full benefits, for the third academic quarter. They shall remain eligible to receive vaccinations as part of the broader district vaccination plan. They shall return to paid status upon reporting for in-person work.
- Timing and duration of staffing decisions. To the extent legally allowed, CPS will reevaluate accommodations and leaves prior to the 4th quarter, based upon levels of in-person attendance for the 4th quarter. Bargaining unit employees who take the unpaid job-protected leaves created by the agreement may be offered the opportunity to return from leave to provide remote instruction at any time during their leave. Accommodations and leave requests for 4th quarter may not be unreasonably denied.
[TESTING] Tentative agreement to:
- Test all symptomatic students and staff
- Test 100% of in-person employees per week at schools at the 134 schools in high covid case count neighborhoods
- Test 50% of in-person employees per week at all other neighborhoods
- Test students at the 134 schools in high covid case count neighborhoods
- Offer testing to all staff before return to in-person work
- Offer testing to all students age 10 and above upon return to in-person
[VENTILATION] CPS conducted an audit, commitment to 5 air changes/hr, portable air purifiers, ability for staff to self-check effectiveness, and non-compliant rooms will not be used.
[WORKSPACES] Workspaces that do not meet therapeutic, instructional, safety, and ventilation standards will not be used.
[REMOTE LEARNING IMPROVEMENTS] CPS shall provide families with additional technology and support for remote learning, including, but not limited to, headphones, devices and vision screening.
[PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT] “Appropriate PPE” including N95 respirators, gloves, gowns, and other equipment as required for specific jobs.
[SAFETY COMMITTEE] Building- and district-level safety committees empowered to enforce health and safety protocols. Violations must be remedied as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours.
[STUDENT/PARENT SUPPORT] CPS and CTU shall collaborate through the quarterly STLS services review under Article 46-1.4 of the CBA to provide additional support to students in transitional living situations, which shall include, but not be limited to, coordination of social services, additional remote learning support (devices, broadband), and nutrition assistance.
[SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY SCHOOLS] Release $2M in unused SCS funds from 19-20 to SCS schools for COVID relief and mutual aid. Unaddressed
[SPECIALS] Specials teachers’ limitations on cohorts shall not exceed the limitations established under the previously-published CPS Principals’ Guidance.
[SIMULTANEOUS INSTRUCTION] Reject simultaneous instruction. Unaddressed
[RENT ABATEMENT] CPS should support the call for rent abatement. Unaddressed
[HOLD PRE-K & CLUSTER STAFF, CLERKS; & TECH COs HARMLESS] Separate Side Letter to rescind discipline for AWOL cases. Withheld pay and benefits, and discipline concerning parent communication cases, to be handled through resolution of pending litigation.