Chicago teachers rally in Grant Park as they threaten to strike

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Several thousand Chicago public school teachers rallied in Grant Park Monday evening. They're in the middle of contract talks and they're threatening another strike.

Negotiations are stuck because the Board of Education is broke and is asking teachers to pay more for health insurance and pensions. That would mean lower take-home pay.

“$653 million dollars of cuts coming out of the pay, coming out of the pockets of people who make the schools go,” said CTU VP Jesse Sharkey.

The man on the other side of the table, schools superintendent Forrest Claypool, did not directly address that in a written statement: "We are in the middle of good faith bargaining discussions with our partners at the CTU. At CPS, we are looking for a solution, not a strike."

But a big reason for Monday’s rally was to provide a forum for the union to rattle the strike saber it's already been brandishing for months. Because any strike days are always made up at the end of the school year, Chicago teachers get to walk off the job without risking the loss of even a penny of pay.

“When we must, we will withhold our labor. Because this is the root of our power,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.

That power is so great, in fact, that Republicans in Springfield complain Chicago teachers have come to make more in pay and benefits than teachers in any of America's ten largest cities.  Gov. Bruce Rauner has offered a series of proposals that would give local school boards the option of reducing the power of public employee unions. For that, Rauner was vilified at Monday’s rally.

“Raunerrrrr! Booooooo!” said Keith Kelleher of SEIU.

“I believe this governor has been passin' out turkeys ever since he's bene in office. That's right. Gobble, gobble,” said Reverend Paul Jakes.

Rauner's proposal to restrict the power of public employee unions is at the heart of the political stalemate in the state capitol. Barring some change in Springfield, look for Chicago Teachers Union to strike in the spring.

And they usually win a great deal of whatever they want, with taxpayers footing the bill.

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