The Chicago Teachers Union has escalated its ongoing fit over its members being asked to return to their workplaces, telling all its members to refuse to return to the classroom Wednesday, including those teachers who had voluntarily returned to work on Monday as they were initially ordered to do. The move forced Chicago Public Schools to tell parents at the last minute that all classes would once again be remote on Wednesday.
The union further threatened that if any teachers were disciplined for refusing to report to their classrooms as they were ordered to do, that their members would stop working altogether and picket, which would almost certainly constitute an illegal strike. Under Illinois law; teachers are permitted to strike only if they do not have an active contract. Currently, CTU has a contract with CPS.
The CTU's stated reason for striking is that they believe the district has not done enough to make their classrooms safe for reopening. They also say that they want the district to set clear metrics that will determine when schools will be open for in-person learning and when they will close. They also claim that the district's teacher vaccination schedule is unsatisfactory.
In response, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has pointed out that the city has paid more than $100 million to make schools able to safely operate. Additionally, numerous researchers and studies, including the CDC, have found that schools are an extremely low-risk environment for the spread of the coronavirus.
"I am deeply disappointed that after all this time, all these sessions, all the work to make our CPS school buildings are safe, no agreement has yet been reached," Lightfoot said.
According to WBBM-TV, negotiations between the CTU and CPS are continuing, and the current plan is for all K-8 students in Chicago to have the option for a return to in-person learning on Feb. 1; however, the union's bluster and threat of an illegal strike has raised the possibility that Chicago parents may have to endure distance learning for a substantially longer period of time.
A member of the executive board of the CTU was lambasted on social media in January for encouraging teachers to refuse to return to schools while she vacationed in the Caribbean.
Chicago teachers last went on strike in October 2019. That strike lasted 11 days and threw the community into disarray.