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Will They or Won't They? Chicago Teachers' Union to Vote on Strike

UPDATED

The Chicago Teachers' Union is not expected to discuss whether to go on strike until Wednesday, but it is appearing less likely that a strike will happen before the end of this school year, local media report.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that teachers were concerned that a strike before the end of the school year could jeopardize their health insurance and last pay check before the summer. Teachers are paid for 10 months of the year, so if they were to go on strike they could potentially lose their last paycheck before the summer, the paper reported.

And the CTU's vice president Jesse Sharkey told the paper that members of the union's "big bargaining team"—which voted in February to reject a contract offer from the district—and others were concerned about the financial implications of a strike so close to the end of the school year.

"If CPS provokes us, and unilaterally effects change, all bets are off," Sharkey told the paper. "In the absence of that, I get a sense that our members would not be looking at a strike in May."

The last day of classes is expected to be June 21, and the district has already made contingency plans for graduation.

Chicago teachers walked off the job for a one-day strike on April 1. CPS then filed a labor grievance with the state Educational Labor Relations Board, which ruled that the one-day strike was illegal.

Last month, a fact-finder recommended that the union and school district move ahead with the contract offer the union rejected in February. Both sides continue to negotiate. However, a major sticking point is the district's proposal to end the practice of picking up 7 percent of the teachers' pension contributions. The union says that's tantamount to a pay cut.

The union's House of Delegates is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss whether or not to go on strike and whether it should do so on May 16 or later. The union must provide the state with a 10-day notice of its intention to strike.

Despite the absence of a definitive decision from the CTU, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday sounded as if a strike had been averted.

"The good news is, they agreed not to strike. And I compliment Jesse Sharkey for his comment that there's not a mood there among teachers," the Sun-Times quotes the mayor as saying.

The union, on the other hand, stressed that it had not yet made a decision. It is asking members to wear red on Fridays and to use their lunch breaks to discuss long-term funding solutions for the district.

 "If CPS ends the school year now, it is because its broke-on-purpose budgeting schemes could not afford to keep the doors open in the first place," union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said in a statement.

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