Lightfoot denies reneging on 12-week parental leave promise to Chicago Teachers Union

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday denied reneging on a promise to the Chicago Teachers Union by her handpicked school team to give rank-and-file teachers and school support staff the same 12 weeks of paid parental leave already provided to all 32,000 city employees.

Hours after the CTU, which has endorsed union organizer Brandon Johnson, delivered 3,000 signatures to City Hall, Lightfoot branded the allegation that she reversed the parental leave promise "fundamentally not true."

"I’m the mayor who said, ‘This is a really good idea. That we should get it done.’ And we got it done for the city. What sense would it make for me to then say, ‘But I want to deny it to every other person outside of the city of Chicago government proper’? That doesn’t make any sense. Think of the logic and the absurdity of that," Lightfoot told reporters after the City Council meeting on Wednesday.

"I want this to be a policy of not only the city of Chicago but of sister agencies. But it has to be done through the collective bargaining process.

Lightfoot argued the collective bargaining process has worked to provide the 12-week parental leave perk with every city union with one exception: the Fraternal Order of Police, whose fiery union President John Catanzara has been at odds with the mayor over all things pertaining to law enforcement.


 CTU Vice President Jackson Potter accused the mayor of "not being forthright."

"They told us they were gonna do it with some modifications on Nov. 15. A month later, they tell us they’re not gonna do it," Potter said.

"Maybe the mayor was upset that she couldn’t take full credit for implementing. We had announced this was gonna happen. So, in retaliation, she pulled to plug on it. That’s my sense of what occurred."

Potter acknowledged that AFSCME was in the middle of contract negotiations when the issue of parental leave was raised at the bargaining table. But he argued AFSCME had requested a less-generous leave and it was Lightfoot who decided to "unilaterally expand" it.

Potter said the union will challenge her to "enact a policy that’s as good or better than what she did on the city side."

Last week, Lightfoot publicly apologized for the attempt by her reelection campaign to recruit students at CPS and City Colleges in exchange for class credit.

Lightfoot insisted she knew nothing about the student recruitment effort at CPS until her campaign got a question about it.

Potter contended Wednesday the mayor’s explanation lacked credibility and that she cannot be believed, given what he called her trail of broken promises.

"She said, `I support an elected school board’ when she was running for mayor in 2019, then fought us tooth-and-nail in the Legislature. She said she wanted a social worker and nurse in every school building, then put us on strike for two weeks to get that in our contract. She said she wants parental leave for all sister agencies, then she pulls the plug on it when CPS is about to implement it," Potter said.

"This is a pattern. Something that should be a cakewalk is always a dogfight with this mayor. … We didn’t support her in the last election. She’s been smarting ever since. Wants to make us pay for that."