The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) says they are no longer happy with legislation in the General Assembly that would make it more difficult for teachers to strike and tenure less of a factor in layoffs—a measure they backed last month along with incoming Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and business groups.
It all changed yesterday when CTU's governing body, the House of Delegates, voted to call for the removal of "the anti-union bargaining restrictions of the bill", which passed in the Illinois State Senate in April and is scheduled for a hearing in the House next week.
“Our members have spoken clearly and decisively; they do not like this bill and demand changes to the language inserted during last-minute midnight maneuvers that restricted their collective bargaining rights,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.
The House of Delegates, which is made up of 800 union members, found fault with Section 12 (b) of the bill saying that it blocked the union's ability to raise certain concerns, including lengthening the school day and academic year; both of which Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is a strong supporter. CTU's attorney Robert Bloch said the section of the bill "is a two-sentence atomic bomb that was slipped into the 110-page bill at the last minute."
Another section of the bill that raised the eyebrows of those in the House of Delegates restricts when a strike can take place. Under the bill, a strike would be possible only if 75 percent of the union membership voted in favor of it. The threshold would be 51 percent of voting union members in suburban school districts and those downstate. The CTU is willing to agree to the 75 percent figure, but wants it to be of voting members, not the entire membership.
"A strike is a last option," said Lewis. "It is a serious move. We'll take the challenge of 75 percent versus 51 percent, but of members who participate in the voting process. Imagine if that was the requirement to win a seat in the State Legislature?"
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D- Maywood), may face another hurdle in the House. It is rumored that House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) could tack on an amendment that would change the funding mechanism for teacher pensions. If he does move to collect money for pensions by way of a new separate property tax, which some say he is considering, lawmakers may shy away from backing the bill.