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Chicago teachers' strike to continue at least until Wednesday

September 16, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Chicago Teachers Union delegates arrive for a meeting Sunday. The delegates did not approval a proposed contract so the walkout will continue.
Chicago Teachers Union delegates arrive for a meeting Sunday. The delegates… (Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated…)

The Chicago teachers’ strike continues.

School won’t be out for forever, but it’ll be out until at least Wednesday. Eight hundred union delegates deliberated for a little over two hours Sunday on whether to end the strike after union and Chicago Public School negotiators came to terms Saturday on a proposed contract.

But the delegates weren’t ready to approve what they saw — not yet — since  they reportedly still knew little about the deal their leaders had gotten for them. At a televised news conference Sunday evening, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said school district officials still hadn’t finalized language on the tentative offer.

Lewis said teachers weren’t pleased with the deal.

“They’re not happy with the agreement. They’d like for it to be a lot better for us than it is,” she said. Later she added, “This is not a good deal by any stretch of the imagination, especially compared to what our members are used to having.”

The tentative three-year proposal came after a week of protests by a 30,000-member teachers’ union responsible for running the nation’s third-largest public school district. The weeklong strike is the nation’s most significant for teachers since a Detroit walkout six years ago and has been closely watched by labor leaders and education observers nationwide.

One person knowledgeable about the Sunday afternoon union discussions told NBC Chicago that some members thought the deal didn’t secure enough provisions for the paraprofessionals and special education teachers who are also part of the union.

Some Jewish union members were also frustrated by having only a few hours to review the deal before Rosh Hashanah began at sundown. Lewis said the delegates would reconvene Tuesday for a potential vote, allowing time to honor the holiday and also giving delegates more time to consult with union members about the basics of the deal.

Details of the proposed three-year contract released by the teachers’ union on Saturday showed that union negotiators won a number of key concessions from the district but failed to secure the significant pay increases they had sought.

“We believe this is a good contract,” Lewis said in a statement on Saturday, an assessment that contrasted with the more pessimistic tone she took on Sunday.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Emanuel won a concession lengthening the school day by 90 minutes; union negotiators offset that increase by securing six half-days for teachers. Principals will also retain significant authority in hiring teachers of their choosing.

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