Two days ago I posed the question, “Does CPS have a contract?” The answer is clearly a strong “NO.” The Chicago Teachers Union 40 person Big Bargaining Team unanimously rejected the tentative agreement that CPS had proposed.
The CPS offer basically froze compensation for most teachers for four years. I was OK with that… even though CPS has taken about $2 Billion from teachers in the past five years. I like the idea of getting rid of the pension pick-up, but don’t want teachers to suffer 7% pay cuts to achieve it. Some teachers would have come out with a tiny increase over 4 years, other teachers – longer serving teachers- would have had to take a significant pay cut.
CPS’s offer also included a requirement – added at the last minute – that over 2000 CTU members take early retirement with the provision that if that number didn’t leave the profession the contract would be re-opened. In other words… the whole thing would be scrapped. To me this seems like a poison pill. How could CTU agree to a contract that forced a 10% reduction in teachers and school staff? How could CTU agree to a contract which had a self-destruct clause in it?
There were good things in the contract proposal; things for which our bargaining team has been fighting for over a year. There was some movement on issues like standardized testing, teacher paperwork, REACH evaluation and other non-monetary concessions by CPS. This is good. These things are not small. These matter to our students and to our ability to do our jobs.
But in addition to the forced retirement/self destruct clause there was one other factor that made it impossible for the CTU teachers, clinicians and PSRPs on the bargaining team to give this proposal a thumbs up. The lack of trust we have for Rahm, Rauner and CPS really sank the deal. As Reagan said about nuclear arms negotiations with the Soviet Union: “Trust but verify.”
The CPS tentative agreement’s “charter freeze” sounded like a great win until folks realized it was completely unenforceable because the IL Charter Commission can override CPS on charters. The promise to avoid “economic layoffs” seems too good to be true. In the past, CPS has gotten very creative in finding ways to lay off teachers.
We don’t have trust and many of the things that made this tentative agreement seem like a serious offer at first turned out to be unverifiable.
Today Rahm’s fuzzy sweater came off. We’re seeing the CPS that was always under the surface… the CPS that is headed by Rahm’s downsizer in chief Forrest Claypool. Today CPS said that, because we did not accept their proposal, that they’d unilaterally force principals to lay off $50 million dollars worth of teachers and support staff while forcing us to take a 7% pay cut by ending the contractually defined pension pick-up. This isn’t a negotiating position, it’s a direct threat that is supposed to go into effect in the next 30 days.
Why is it, when banks use deceptive practices to sell CPS toxic financial instruments Rahm rolls over and makes no effort to fight for the taxpayers; but when teachers reject a faulty contract proposal his first instinct is to threaten cuts that will explode class sizes, further demoralize teachers and cripple schools that have already suffered budget and staff cuts for years?
Our response… CTU’s response is to organize and oppose Rahm and Rauner. We will be rallying downtown on Thursday afternoon. We’ll be putting the financial sector in the spot light. CPS is broke on purpose. CPS will be soon spending way more on financing debt than it will be spending on pensions. The lack of political will to raise revenues in a fair and transparent way is a real culprit here. Diverting TIF money from schools, libraries and parks to what amounts to a real estate developer subsidy is a real culprit here. Decades of pension theft via “pension holidays” is a culprit here.
Rahm has taken his sweater off. 20,000 teachers and supporters are putting their red shirts on.
See you on Thursday. I’ll be the one in red.