Talks to avert Chicago's first teachers' strike in twenty-five years will continue throughout the weekend between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers Union. The union has set the strike date for Monday, September 10th.
Mayor Emanuel, fresh off his trip from the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, will hastily try to bridge the gap before the Monday deadline. Although progress in negotiations had been reported, the sides remain far apart on key issues.
A reduced cost-of-living raise from 4% to 2% in May and the addition of 90 extra minutes to the school day are major points of contention. Stiffer teacher evaluations linked to student performance and teacher experience as a main determinant of raises also concern the CTU.
Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union,told a journalist at the Chicago Tribune last week, "I want to make clear that we will remain at the (negotiating) table until a deal gets done. We will have a contract and it will come the easy way or the hard way."
There is a contingency plan in place if a deal isn't agreed upon in time. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, 144 school sites have been designated in the event of a strike. The sites will offer food and activities in half-day increments for students affected by the strike. Lewis did not hesitate to come up with the contingency plan:
"(The 144 school sites) are going to be a mess," she remarked. "I wouldn't send my children (there)."
This is a tricky time for Mayor Emanuel. In addition to an impending strike and one of the worst crime rates in the country, he has now taken on the added task of raising money for Priorities USA Action -- a democratic super PAC. The strike would come after Governor Pat Quinn's veto of a casino plan heavily endorsed by Emanuel. In addition, the impending strike will have been caused, in part, by Emanuel's implementation of 90 extra minutes to the school day.