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CTU Rank-and-file Votes to Save Lives, Continue to Teach Safely and Remotely - Two Releases

Educators call on Mayor Lightfoot and CPS to adopt CDC health metric, agree to rigorous testing and allow educators to return as they’re vaccinated, among other concerns.

CTU Bargaining Group, Chicago Teachers Union

CHICAGO, Jan. 24, 2021—In an unprecedented remote electronic vote, 71 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members have voted to continue teaching remotely starting Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Eighty-six percent of rank-and-file members voted from Thursday, Jan. 21 through Saturday, Jan. 23.

With this vote, rank-and-file educators will continue teaching remotely, and safely, as they have been doing for months.

A message from Chicago Public Schools this afternoon, claiming that “we have agreed to a request from CTU leadership to push back the return of K-8 teachers and staff to Wednesday, Jan. 27,” and seeking to sow dissent and disrupt collective Union action, is inaccurate.

CPS unilaterally made the decision to move the return date for K-8 teachers back to Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The Union currently has no agreement with the district on any terms.

“The overwhelming majority of our members have chosen safety, unity and solidarity, and an agreement is within reach, but we need a willing partner,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Emails like that don’t help.”

“Our collective power is our greatest strength,” Sharkey added, “and this vote cements our intention to continue to stand together in unity to land an agreement that protects educators, students and all of our CPS families.”

Only 19 percent of students eligible to return to pre-kindergarten and special education cluster classrooms returned on January 11. While the district has so far not released demographic data for those students, the Board of Education has shared in bargaining that the majority of students returning to classrooms are from neighborhoods that include Lincoln Park and the far Northwest Side.

The district insists on returning at least 80 percent of staff to unsafe school buildings, even as less than 20 percent of eligible students have returned so far. The majority of families, including the majority of Black and Brown families that CPS serves, continue to suffer through the pandemic and are in need of substantial supports.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS must make substantive changes in remote learning to adequately provide for the clear majority of our students.

“We need to frontload the needs of our Black and Brown children, because our district has failed them for far too long,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “From 50 school closings, to only four school libraries on the West Side, to the loss of Black educators, to underfunded and under resourced bilingual education…our district has failed them at every turn.

“CPS can’t continue failing Black and Brown children, and families, in a pandemic.”

The Union continues to demand a responsible health metric built on CDC guidelines, committees to enforce safety standards, voluntary staff return as workers can access vaccines, and rigorous testing for students and staff to mitigate any possible outbreaks.

Negotiations with the Board resume this afternoon.

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As lock-outs continue, CPS has yet to vaccinate 1,500 health care professionals eligible for vaccine in December, as mayor’s hand-picked school board still insists on forcing 10,000 more unvaccinated workers to teach in-person by Feb. 1.  

  • 6:30 a.m., Monday, Jan. 25: press conference — CTU rank and file members on struggle for safe accommodations, officers on status of bargaining. Reporters, please register at this link.

CHICAGO—Only 19 percent of eligible students returned to school buildings on January 11, yet CPS remains adamant about forcing another 10,000 workers back into buildings on February 1 — unvaccinated, with no safety guarantees in their classrooms or their buildings. At the same time, CPS is continuing to lock out pre-K and special education cluster teachers for exercising their right to a safe workplace by continuing to teach remotely.

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot’s insistence on reopening all elementary school classrooms without vaccinating educators by February 1 regardless of the risk to staff and students from the pandemic comes as thousands of CTU members are struggling to receive accommodations to remain teaching remotely to protect their own health or that of a beloved household member.

Rank and file educators who’ve struggled to receive accommodations from CPS to continue educating students remotely out of health concerns for themselves or a loved one will talk about the human face of COVID at a press conference at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, January 25 via zoom.

CPS failed to arrange for vaccinations for 1,500 class 1(a) CPS health professionals — school nurses, LPNs, speech pathologists, physical therapists and more — who were eligible to begin being vaccinated in December. While CPS has at last said it will move to vaccinate school staff, perhaps beginning in mid-February, it has refused to allow workers to be vaccinated before they’re forced back into school buildings that have struggled with even the most basic safety needs, from adequate masks and hand sanitizer to ventilation adequate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

CPS has rejected adopting a nationally recognized health metric to determine if schools should be open or remain remote. The Union has proposed using CDC guidelines; CPS has said no. The Union has proposed staffing up schools as workers become vaccinated, since only 19 percent of eligible students returned on January 11 and most Black and Brown students remain learning remotely. CPS has rejected that proposal, instead insisting that every educator must be in every school teaching students remotely from their classrooms by this week, even if their classrooms have no students attending in-person. And CPS continues to either reject or simply ignore thousands of requests from workers for health accommodations for themselves or household members with cancer, hypertension, heart disease and other health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID sickness and death.

Charter operators that include Passages, Epic, Latino Youth and Acero — one of CPS’ largest charter networks — have elected to remain remote until at least April when workers will have wider access to vaccines and the pandemic is under better control.


The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.