Mayor says he will go to court to end Chicago teachers strike

September 17, 2012

By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and Joel Hood, Chicago Tribune

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is threatening to go to court today to end the Chicago teachers strike after union delegates decided to extend the walkout at least two more days while they review a tenative deal.

Emanuel called the walkout “illegal” and pledged late Sunday to seek an injunction in court to force an end to the city’s first teachers strike in a quarter century leaders and return more than 350,000 students to the classroom.

Delegates had met with Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis for nearly three hours Sunday to review a tentative contract that had been brokered after months of negotiation, but decided to extend the strike.

“They’re not happy with the agreement. They’d like it to be a lot better for us than it is,” Lewis said. “This is the deal we got. This is not a good deal by any stretch of the imagination, not (compared) to what our members are (used) to having.”

Delegates expressed frustration that they hadn’t been given more time to consider the lengthy contract revisions and said they would meet with their members Tuesday, after the Jewish holidays.

Lewis acknowledged returning to classes Wednesday may be optimistic, considering how difficult it has been for the union and CPS to find agreement on many key issues.

Emanuel called upon CPS officials “to explore every action possible” to return students to school. He has maintained for over a week that the two major sticking points in negotiations — evaluations and the ability to recall teachers who have been laid off — are not legal grounds for a work stoppage.

“I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union,” Emanuel said in a released statement.

It would appear the earliest that the district could get an injunction to get students back in school would be for Tuesday classes.

“That’s one day they don’t have right now,” said Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton. “Our signal is that we’re serious about getting kids back in school.”

Delegates could have ended the strike with a vote Sunday, but only the union’s full membership of roughly 26,000 teachers and paraprofessionals can approve the contract. Lewis said delegates wanted more time to digest the details.

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