Chicago Teachers Union leaders made their way back to the bargaining table Saturday afternoon with officials from Chicago Public Schools as the teachers’ strike entered its third day.
CTU president Jesse Sharkey and vice president Stacy Davis Gates — who spent the morning at an Illinois Federation of Teachers convention in Rosemont where former CTU president Karen Lewis was being honored — filed into Malcolm X College about 12:30 p.m. without speaking to reporters.
But the union’s general counsel, Robert Bloch, said he hoped to see momentum carry over from Friday’s negotiations.
“We made some progress yesterday on class size and staffing,” Bloch said. “We still have a ways to go on those issues, but we’re working off the same page now, which is important. It’s a sign of progress.”
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Friday they were “encouraged” by talks that “yielded real movement” on the staffing of nurses, social workers, librarians and counselors.
Saturday marked the third day of contract talks since teachers walked off the job, wiping out two days of classes, sports and other activities for 300,000 Chicago Public Schools students. Negotiations are expected to stretch into the evening.
The continued negotiations followed a rally in the morning by teachers and support staffers clad in red and purple at Douglas Park.
Joined by unionized health care staff from across the street at Mount Sinai Hospital, the workers promised to keep pressure on the city to negotiate what they say will be a “fair contract” for students and school workers across Chicago.
“We believe that employers in Chicago have a moral responsibility to provide good jobs to every worker and to support healthy, vibrant neighborhoods everywhere — not just on the North Side,” said Gregory Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare. “That’s why we’re standing in solidarity to say it’s time to respect all Chicagoans and invest in all of our kids, healthcare workers and neighborhoods to close the racial gap in this city.”
Jennifer Eggener, who has taught at Collins Academy High School in Douglas Park for the past 11 years, said that schools need more resources to help students deal with trauma.
“I’ve visited too many students who are in the hospital due to gun violence. I’ve attended way too many students’ funerals,” Eggener said. “My heart can’t take it anymore.”
Dennis Kosuth, a CPS nurse, said he works at three different schools — down from the six he managed last year. Still, he said it’s “impossible” to manage the case load.
“What we have now is not a safe situation for our students, and that’s what we’re fighting for,” Kosuth said.
A handful of elected officials showed up to support CTU and other workers throughout the city. Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin, who called herself a “product of Chicago Public Schools,” said teachers were striking for the students’ best interests.
“It is timeout that our children be treated differently because of the zip code that they live in,” Conyears-Ervin said. “We demand that our children be treated the same as anyone else [and] receive a fair and equitable education.”
Follow the Chicago Sun-Times for the latest developments on the teachers’ strike.