Emanuel: City to file lawsuit to force end to teachers' strike - FOX 32 News Chicago

Emanuel files injunction to end CTU strike, judge delays hearing until Wednesday

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has asked a state court to force Chicago school teachers back to work, ending a week-long strike he calls illegal, under state law.

The union immediately condemned the move as an act of vindictiveness by a "bullying" mayor. 

Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said city attorneys asked the Cook County Circuit Court to force Chicago Teachers Union members off the picket line and back into classrooms.

The request argues the strike is illegal because state law bars the union from striking on anything but economic issues and that the work stoppage is focused instead on such issues as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights.

SEE: CPS vs. CTU court filing (PDF)

The 700-page filing also contends the strike presents a danger to public health and safety, partly because more than 80 percent of 350,000 public students rely on school meals for their basic nutrition; it says 50,000 others, including autistic students, depend on special instruction. And out of school, children more prone to fall victim to violence, it says.

"At a critical time in their lives, a vulnerable population has been cast adrift by the CTU's decision to close down the schools, with consequent grave implications for the residents of the city of Chicago," the court document says.

The union blasted the city's decision to resort to legal action.

In a statement released later Monday, the CTU said the filing appeared to be "a vindictive act." They also shot back saying, "If this was an illegal strike, the Chicago public schools would have sought injunctive relief on day one... CPS' spur-of-the-moment decision to seek injunctive relief some six days later appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor"

"This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor Emanuel's bullying behavior toward public school educators," the union said in the statement.

Judge Peter Flynn delayed hearing the case until Wednesday, the day after the House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on whether to end the strike.

SEE: Teachers strike continues: No classes Monday, Tuesday

"I will not stand by while the children of Chicago are played as pawns in an internal dispute within a union. This was a strike of choice and is now a delay of choice that is wrong for our children," Emanuel said.

Is the strike legal? The answer depends on who you ask. 

" The question is, what are they actually striking over?" This is a complicated issue, it's not clear," explains Northwestern Associate Law Professor Zev Eigen. "If I were judge I'd issue an injunction but I think that's not good way for this issue to be resolved.

But Chicago Employment Attorney John Riccione believes there are no grounds to stop the strike.

"There are probably enough issues related to working conditions that will cloud the water enough to pass by an injunction, so an injunction would not likely be granted," says Riccione.

In a statement Sunday, Emanuel had called the strike illegal because it endangered students' health and safety, and concerned issues - such as evaluations, layoffs and recall rights - that state law says cannot be grounds for a work stoppage. Students, he says, in "many urban areas, are at risk of violence when they are not in school."

"I have instructed the City's Corporation Counsel to work with the General Counsel of Chicago Public Schools to file an injunction in circuit court to immediately end this strike and get our children back in the classroom," Emanuel said in a statement. "This continued action by union leadership is illegal on two grounds – it is over issues that are deemed by state law to be non-strike-able, and it endangers the health and safety of our children."

The Chicago Teachers Union decided Sunday to continue its weeklong strike, extending an acrimonious standoff with Emanuel and the city schools.

The union and school leaders had seemed headed toward a resolution at the end of last week, saying they were optimistic students in the nation's third-largest school district would be back in class by Monday. But teachers uncomfortable with a tentative contract offer decided Sunday to remain on strike, saying they needed more time to review a complicated proposal.

Emanuel said he's asked President of the Board of Education, David Vitale, and the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Jean-Claude Brizard, to "explore every action possible to get our kids back into a classroom or educational facility."

SEE: Vitale: 'We will do whatever we can'

In a statement Sunday, Vitale said the district will keep nearly 150 schools open to provide meals for students. More than 80 percent of Chicago students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

He said he's disappointed the strike will continue and that there's no reason that children can't be in school while the union reviews the agreement.

Talker: What do you think? Should the judge force the striking teachers back to the classroom? Share your thoughts on the MyFoxChicago.com Facebook page.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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