Chicago teachers are threatening to "step up resistance" if the school district doesn’t improve COVID-19 protections.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Service Employees International Union Local 73 issued a joint statement Wednesday demanding Chicago Public Schools (CPS) “step up safety or we’ll step up resistance to dangerous conditions.”
CTU represents about 25,000 teachers and support personnel in the district. Local 73 represents more than 31,000 workers, mainly in school districts, municipalities and social service agencies in Illinois and Indiana.
The unions said that they have “spent months at the bargaining table, while CPS dithers on agreeing to even the bulk of the safety protections they accepted last spring when schools first reopened.”
They complained that social distancing is failing in schools, the district has yet to rollout COVID-19 testing and that the district “continues to reject” a vaccination program for students and their families.
CPS returned to in-person learning on Monday. The district requires masks to be worn at all time and is requiring teachers and school staff to be vaccinated unless they receive a medical or religious exemption.
The district has reported 28 COVID-19 cases among adults so far this week, with 11 in quarantine.
CTU shared a photo to Twitter of a crowded hallway at a high school, saying "this is social distancing at one of our high schools.”
Today is day three of classes in Chicago Public Schools, and this is social distancing at one of our high schools. Many of our high schools, in fact.— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) September 1, 2021
Mayor Lightfoot and CPS had no plan for safety, and this is the result. Yet they insist schools are safe. But this is dangerous. pic.twitter.com/TNimtp2WWF
In mid-August, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union was at an “impasse” regarding in-person learning because the district was trying to cut social distancing measures in half and get rid of other provisions that were in place last spring.
The unions blasted the district and Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised Chicago says unvaccinated police risk losing jobs, retirement benefits Days off for Chicago police curtailed amid vaccine mandate showdown MORE (D) for returning schools to in-person learning without an agreement with them on safety standards.
“Overcrowding, lack of testing, AC breakdowns, and other mitigation failures will drive needless infections and preventable harm, while Lightfoot continues to allow her CPS team to drag on landing safety agreements with the CTU and Local 73,” the unions said.
CPS spokesperson James Gherardi told The Hill that the district has "no appetite for escalating tensions after immense uncertainty regarding reopening."
"With teacher attendance at pre-pandemic levels on the first day of school, it’s clear that our educators are overwhelmingly ready to be back with their students. This year no doubt requires more adjustments, for which the district and schools have been preparing for months," Gherardi said in a statement. "As a result, our schools are and remain safe. We will continue to work with the CTU in good faith and keep parents informed of any notable updates.”
--Updated at 1:05 p.m.