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CTU Post Claims Furlough Dates Could Violate Labor Contract

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (right) with Vice President Jesse Sharkey at a press conference last year. (Chicago Tonight)

The ink has barely dried on the labor contract between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, but with a wave of upcoming furlough days announced, one side has made the claim that deal may have been violated already.

A posting by CTU communications on its website Thursday claims the four furlough days violate the union’s agreement with the Board of Education by denying educators a portion of the 10 professional development days afforded to them each school year.

“State law prohibits our union from striking over layoffs, which officially include furlough days as ‘one-day layoffs,’ but our contract will make a difference,” the statement reads. “These layoffs violate our Agreement with the mayor's handpicked Board of Education that a total of 10 professional development days be made available to our members.”

The posting – which has since been removed from the union’s website – was created to advertise a pair of upcoming training events for union members focused on “leading and winning contract fights.” The first of these events had been scheduled Saturday.

A CTU spokesman declined comment on the issue Friday afternoon after the listing was removed.

A since-deleted posting on the Chicago Teachers Union's website, which claims upcoming furlough dates violate its contact with Chicago Public Schools.

Last Friday, CPS officials announced all district staff would be furloughed on four non-instructional school improvement days between February and June. That move came as CPS is seeking to cut costs following Gov. Bruce Rauner’s decision to veto $215 million in state funding that would have gone to the district this year.

The furloughs are expected to save approximately $35 million.

Following the announcement last week, the union issued a statement slamming CPS for being “stubborn and ineffective” in seeking out proper funding for its schools. But the nearly 500-word release made no mention of a possible contract violation.

Article 19 of the labor agreement, reached between CTU and the Board of Education moments before a midnight deadline last October, states: “The BOARD shall provide bargaining unit employees with ten paid professional development days per year, which shall be scheduled during or contiguous with the school year.”

But it also goes on to state the board has the ability to schedule those PD days in either full- or half-day increments.

The district previously resorted to unpaid furloughs late last school year, sending home educators for three days spread across April and June. A CPS spokeswoman said Friday the union did not object to the legality of that previous round of furlough days and CTU leadership had said publicly that furloughs are legal.

CTU advertised similar meetings last fall, but those occurred when the union was still in position to go on strike prior to securing the new contract. Those meetings centered on “workplace tactics that win” and “planning and winning strikes.”

Saturday’s workshop was designed to help union members identify contract violations, mobilize coworkers and prepare grievances and “other actions.”

Follow Matt Masterson on Twitter: @ByMattMasterson

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