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Union puts forward contract proposal for thousands of new teaching and support staff, at a cost of $880 million

Jesse Sharkey holds up a copy of the expired union contract at a press conference on July 1, 2019.
Jesse Sharkey holds up a copy of the expired union contract at a press conference on July 1, 2019.
Yana Kunichoff

Besides raises, the Chicago Teachers Union is asking the district to hire nearly 5,000 additional teachers, professionals and aides, at a cost of $880 million over three years, documents filed with a fact-finder show.

Specifically, the union’s contract proposal includes adding 2,000 teachers to lower class sizes, 900 social workers, 900 nurses, 500 counselors and 340 special-education aides. The proposal was filed Thursday with a fact-finder assigned to negotiations.

The mayor’s team, meanwhile, filed a proposal on July 2 to the fact-finder that would offer a 14% cumulative raise but made no proposals on staff increases, for a total of $300 million over a five-year contract.

The two sides have been at odds in talks over a contract for the city’s 20,000 teachers and clinicians. Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposes changes to grievance procedures and prep time, but would not add teachers or social workers.

The union has focused on boosting staff, suggesting that could be funded by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Chicagoans and minimizing funding for development projects like the controversial Lincoln Yard development.

Several teachers interviewed by Chalkbeat stressed their schools need more case managers, social workers and special ed staff.

The two reports are competing narratives offered to fact-finder and attorney Steven Bierig, who was also a fact-finder in the union’s last negotiations with the city and who will write a report on the viability of each side’s proposals. In 2016, Bierig agreed in part with both the district and the union.

Both sides will argue that their proposals are the most affordable, says University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign labor Professor Bob Bruno.

“Both sides have a strong incentive to attempt to persuade a fact-finder that their position is affordable and appropriate given the resources that are available,” said Bruno, who testified in the 2016 contract negotiations at the request of the union.

With the start of the school year barely seven weeks away, the Chicago Teachers Union on Thursday gave the city a month to make a deal and released a minute-long video of rank-and-file educators explaining why they’re pushing so hard on contract negotiations.

Union officials said now they plan to bring the city’s contract proposals for a vote by their membership. And if significant progress in negotiations isn’t made, union officials said they plan to move toward a strike authorization vote.

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