Chicago public school teachers have announced that they are ready to go on strike on Monday, calling off classes in the United States’ third largest school system for the first time in twenty five years.
The announcement from the Chicago Teachers Union followed the failure of contract talks with the city officials Sunday night over matters of pay raise and job security.
The public school teachers' strike, which is the first of its kind in a large urban district, comes after several months of rancor between the city authorities, including Chicago Mayor, and Chicago Teachers Union.
“We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, according to Chicago Tribune. “No CTU members will be inside of our schools Monday.” Lewis called it a difficult decision and one the teachers union wanted to avoid.
Reports suggest that classes for some 350,000 students have been cancelled. Only around 144 of its 681 schools are planned to open on Monday.
According to the teachers union, more than 26,000 teachers and school staff are projected to hit the picket lines on Monday morning. Meanwhile, the school district and parents have planned to ensure students' safety.
The union leaders have ordered the 26,000 members to appear at their schools at 6:30 a.m. on Monday to kickoff the strike. Moreover, the union leaders are likely to stay at the negotiating table in the hope of keeping the strike short.
The school district had been giving a 2 percent salary raise a year for 4 years. The teachers union declared the raise objectionable. The relations between the two parties aggravated chiefly after Mayor Rahm Emanuel last year revoked an earlier agreed 4 percent pay raise, saying the city is experiencing budget constraints.
The union answered by demanding a 30 percent pay raise over 2 years, followed by a call for a 25 percent raise over 2 years.
“The union countered by asking for a 30 percent pay raise over two years, followed by a request for a 25 percent increase over two years. Just weeks ago, Lewis told delegates the union had adjusted its demand and was asking for a 19 percent pay raise in the contract's first year,” according to Fox News.
The strike symbolizes the newest flashpoint in an incredibly public and often litigious encounter between the mayor and the union.