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Chicago Teachers' Union Members Overwhelming Vote to Authorize Strike

UPDATED

Nearly 96 percent of Chicago Teachers' Union members who participated in a strike-authorization vote last week cast ballots in favor of striking over a disputed labor contract, the union said Monday.

The union reported a 90.6 percent turnout, with 95.6 percent of those casting ballots for a strike. The vote took place over three days last week.

"This should come as no surprise to the Board [of Education], the mayor or parents because educators have been angry about the school-based cuts that have hurt special education students, reduced librarians, counselors, social workers and teachers' aides, and eliminated thousands of teaching positions," the  Chicago Teachers' Union said in a statement announcing the vote results.

The union's House of Delegates is expected to meet Wednesday to decide what steps to take. Among the issues they will discuss is whether to issue a 10-day notice of intent to strike (required by law before any strike can take place) to the Board of Education, the union said. That means that teachers and others represented by the union could walk off the job as early as Oct. 11.

This is the second time in less than a year that Chicago Teachers' Union members have voted to authorize a strike. In December, the union said that 88 percent of eligible members voted in favor of a strike, but it continued to negotiate with the district.

The last Chicago teachers' union strike lasted for seven days in 2012.

The district, which has been beset by financial challenges, and the teachers' union cannot agree on the terms of a new contract. The last contract expired in June 2015.

In a statement Monday, the district appeared confident that the two sides could reach agreement without a strike.

 "A strike can be averted, and CPS will work tirelessly to make sure children's education and progress is not interrupted," Emily Bittner, a district spokesperson, said.  "CPS teachers have helped propel Chicago students' remarkable academic gains—so even in a difficult financial environment, CPS is offering teachers a raise that was already supported by both the CTU leadership and an independent third party arbitrator." 

The union rejected a district proposal in February that included salary increases over the life of the proposed agreement, but which also would have eliminated a long-standing practice of the district picking up the bulk of the teachers' union pension payments.

The latter has been a major sticking point for the union, which has called eliminating the pension pickup the equivalent of a pay cut.

In April, the union rejected an independent fact-finder's recommendations that the union accept an offer from the district similar to what it had turned down in February. 

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