Governor J.B. Pritzker signed bill HB 2275 restoring the Chicago Teachers Union’s ability to bargain with the city over the rights of its members. The Illinois Senate passed the bill in January leaving only Pritzker’s approval. Pritzker signed the bill on Friday against the wishes of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Mayor Lightfoot urged lawmakers to reject the bill back in January fearing it would impede her efforts to reopen schools. She sent a letter stating, “CPS and CTU agreed on a 5-year contract in 2019. It would be unprecedented for the General Assembly to make substantial changes to the bargaining relationship during the terms of this agreement.”
Lightfoot said she would be in support of restoring the union’s bargaining rights at the end of their current contract in 2024. But only if it restricted their right to strike over the length of the school day and or year.
Both Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot said they approved of restoring CTU’s bargaining rights during their perspective campaigns. Pritzker said all Illinois teachers’ unions should have equal bargaining rights and be able to bargain over working conditions as well as policy.
The Chicago Teachers Union’s ability to bargain over certain issues has been restricted since 1995. Former Mayor Richard M. Daley was given control over the district by state lawmakers under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.
Both CTU President Jesse Sharkey and Vice President Stacy Davis Gates were pleased with the governor’s decision to retore CTU’s bargaining power. “With the signing of this bill, we now at last bargain from a level playing field” stated Sharkey.
Sharkey added that the union now has the power to tackle issues like overcrowded classrooms, staff shortages, and the lack of school counselors and nurses.
Pritzker’s signing comes as CTU and CPS leadership are in negotiations over the safe reopening of district high schools. High school teachers and staff returned on Monday and students are set to return to the classroom on April 19.
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.