Teachers Union will hold strike authorization vote next week - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Teachers Union will hold strike authorization vote next week

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Teachers Union will hold a strike authorization vote next week, but that doesn't mean they'll be walking off the job anytime soon.

"We are tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed by the district and by the city of Chicago," said CTU President Karen Lewis. "Enough is enough."

The union and CPS are still in negotiations, and while they agree on some points, they disagree on more issues.

"Our energy and time should be focused on working to find a common ground with the fact finder. And I would hope that all the parties would focus on that," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The union said the vote means they are bracing for the inevitable.

The CTU needs 75 percent of union members must decide they want to strike in order to organize a united effort to stop working, according to Illinois law. The union said it already polled some of its 25,000 members and found support for a strike vote.

Teachers said Chicago Public Schools' current policies and plans for change would harm the district's 400,000 students more than help them. The union said teachers are being blamed for the level of student performance when the actual cause is a lack of resources. According to a CTU release, about 160 schools lack libraries, and even more have ill-equipped science labs, arts programming and physical education courses.

They said current contract proposals will lead to lower achievement levels, more expulsion and classes too large to teach effectively.

Union members say "no teacher wants to strike." But CTU President Karen Lewis said that if this is what needs to happen for them to do well by their students, the strike will need to take place.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean Claude Brizard told FOX Chicago News the administration would not ask teachers to do something for nothing.

He said he feels it is disrespectful for the union to be making assumptions and threatening a strike, when contract negotiations are far from over. Results from an independent fact-checking party have yet to be released - results which could refute what teachers say will happen should School Board proposals come to fruition.

The CEO said the administration and the union are meeting every day to work out the issues that still divide them, and that both parties must allow the process to play out.

Brizard said the district cannot afford the 30 percent raise over the next two years the teachers are asking for. CPS administration has offered a 2 percent raise in the first year of the contract for a 15 to 20 percent longer work day.

On Thursday, Lewis asked the inspector general to look into a $35 million federal grant that was awarded to Chicago Public Schools in 2010 to develop a system to pay teachers based on performance at 25 schools.

Brizard says the grant was not fraudulent at all.

"It's $35 million that will go to teachers to pay people who are working in hard to staff schools, hard to staff subject areas, no strings attached," Brizard said. "$35 million for pay for teachers, some getting as much as $15,000 more in their paychecks."

Brizard says he doesn't know why anyone would turn that offer down but Lewis has previously stated that the union would never sign on to any form of merit pay. Brizard says he's not pushing the merit pay idea but rather an approach used by other professional organizations.

"We're pushing what, the feds and us are pushing a pilot that would mirror what you see in medicine, what you see in law. Teaching is a professional organization, a professional business," Brizard said. "The fact is we should be aligning to what other great professions do."

Brizard said he is confident both parties will be able to compromise somewhere in the middle.

Last week the teachers took their message to the streets. 5000 participated in a rally downtown that had teachers yelling "strike" and booing any mention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, rallying against what they claim is an unfair labor contract.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said teachers deserve a pay raise. Emanuel also added that negotiators are working with an independent arbitrator to accomplish both a raise and the avoidance of a strike.

The CTU contract ends June 30, but contract negotiations will continue into summer.

There hasn't been a teachers' strike in the city of Chicago for over 20 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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