Chicago, IL - An anti-bargaining bill disguised as an education reform bill has passed through the Illinois Senate and moved on to the Illinois House of Representatives. This bill called SB7, includes many components that will take away the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) bargaining rights and rights to strike.
If this bill passes, the CTU will need 75% of a bargaining unit to vote “yes” to strike. 75% is a very difficult number to reach, since the bargaining unit includes agency fee members that do not vote for the union. The CTU will not be able to actually go on strike for many months due to ‘fact finding’ procedures, which could go on into the months of December. After many months of waiting, teachers could be demoralized and lose their enthusiasm to march out of their schools. With these strike restrictions, the teachers have little leverage in their fight for a strong contract, which is a little over a year away for the CTU.
Other components of the bill that reduce workers rights include provisions stating that the union may not file grievances against unfair layoffs with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. It also overturns court cases the union won concerning layoffs and seniority (including a recent court case that restored seniority). Essentially this will remove teachers’ rights of seniority, so layoffs will be left at the discretion of principals, many of whom will try to trim their schools’ budget for teachers’ salaries by firing experienced teachers.
Grievances concerning length of the workday and length of the school year would not be heard by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board. This provision will give the Board of Education or the CEO of Chicago Public Schools free reign to lengthen the school day as they please. The CTU is allowed to bargain for extra pay, but if there is little leverage of a potential strike, then the Board of Education will unlikely agree to extra pay for the teachers. An extended school year is another permissible negotiating item where the board can add days to the school year without considering teacher or community input.
Billionaires and businessmen with no interest in supporting public education were the chief creators of SB7. This bill was created to weaken the teachers’ unions who protect public education and the students in Illinois. If the teachers’ unions are weakened, the businessmen have greater power in the privatization of schools and stealing money from public education. Already 10% of Chicago Public Schools have been turned into non-unionized charter schools and the Chicago Public Schools board of education recently passed proposals for more charter schools.
On May 4, a motion passed through the Chicago Teachers’ Union House of Delegates that condemns the bill and requires the union to “mobilize its members to fight in order to keep our collective bargaining rights.” The Illinois State Board of Education is also upset about components of the bill and is urging the legislators to amend it.
If you care about public schools and you care about workers’ rights, call your Illinois House representative and tell them to “Vote no on SB7.” You can find your representative at: http://www.ctunet.com/action/legislators. Also, call Governor Quinn and tell him to veto SB7 if it passes the house. Quinn’s number is 217-782-0244.